Celestial events in the skies for the week of May 30-June 5, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
Summer is officially three weeks away, and we are already experiencing the benefits of extended daylight to enjoy our outdoor activities. The Moon makes a big impression this week as it is First Quarter heading to the full phase next week. The Moon makes a low arc across the southern Zodiac, tinting the globe with golden light as it filters through the Earth’s atmosphere. This honey colored Moon might be responsible for the social term “honeymoon,” known for the frolicking nights of newlyweds married in the popular month of June.
Tuesday, May 30
The moonlight doesn’t blot out the famous 2nd magnitude stars that make up the Big Dipper, high in the north. Pointing to Polaris at the North Pole, this asterism of the constellation Ursa Major is fun to move as the hours pass, so check it out a couple times each night and see the celestial merry-go-round caused by the Earth turning eastward.
Wednesday, May 31
On this 1975 date in space history, the European Space Agency was formed. Forty-two years later, ESA is a major player in the International Space Station, and has had several highly successful interplanetary missions in the now defunct Venus Express and the 14-year continuing mission of orbiter Mars Express.
Thursday, June 1
Lots of early-morning risers have been asking me “What’s the bright star in the east before sunrise?” That’s planet Venus, which dazzled us all Winter in the early evening when people where asking me the same question! Watch the second planet hugging the eastern horizon from 5 am until lost in twilight glare around 6:30 am.
Friday, June 2
The Moon looms all week, and it begs you to look up. If you have any kind of telescope—or even binoculars—turn them skyward and check out the craters, mountains and seas of frozen lava. You will be amazed. Download a Moon map and become familiar with “road map” of our celestial neighbor.
Saturday, June 3
Jupiter is directly below the gibbous Moon
tonight, a beautiful sight. Watch as the night progresses and the Moon moves eastward its own diameter, one-half degree, an hour and away from the king of planets.
Sunday, June 4
White star Spica is below the Moon tonight, our closest neighbor in space having moved 12.5 degrees from Jupiter Saturday night. The Earth is rotating eastward at 1,100 mph, while the Moon is moving eastward at 2,100 mph, making one circuit around Earth every 28.5 days.
Monday, June 5
Saturn clears the eastern horizon at 10 p.m. in the feet of Ophiuchus the Serpent Handler, the undeclared 13th constellation of the Zodiac. Between Scorpius and Sagittarius, the ringed world will be the star of our late Summer and Autumn skies.