Friday, May 6, 2011

May 2011

April showers are trying to decide if they are going to leave us alone, but we will catch plenty of snatches of the sky in between the rain clouds to see some pretty neat stuff!

May begins with a nice, dark sky until around the 17th when the moon is finally full. We will end out the month with a new moon and dark skies again.

The year is continuing to bring a lot of sunspots; there have been 57 to date this year. Sunspot 1203 will be visible, bringing a low level threat of producing C-class flares.

There was more than one kind of April shower last month. The Lyrids shower is still flinging a few leftovers here and there, with a few impressive lone fireballs spotted by eyewitnesses in this region in recent days. We begin the month with another shower on the 5th and 6th, but it will probably be a weak show. This particular shower is caused by debris dropped by Halley's Comet, discovered by Edmond Halley in 1705.

An excellent constellation to check out this month is Virgo, with its bright alpha star Spica. Virgo is home to the Virgo cluster, a group of galaxies akin to M84 and M86, except all grouped together in one area. Stars 61vir and 70vir are known to harbor their own solar systems, too, so try to keep an eye out for those stars.

During the first week of May, a beautiful planetary conjunction will be visible in the morning sky just before dawn. Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter will all be there to greet you in the east. Uranus will be there, as well, but you will need a decent telescope to catch a glimpse of it. All can be seen in the constellation Pisces. Saturn can be seen cruising through the constellation Virgo.