Celestial events in the skies for the week of May 1-7, 2018, 2018 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
With the Moon moving to the after-midnight scene, faint meteors can be seen all week that are pieces of the famous Comet Halley as the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower is in progress. The Moon moves to Last Quarter on Monday, May 7, playing tag with planets Saturn and Mars late in the week in the predawn sky. Don’t forget Venus! She’s blazing bright in the west after sunset, startling drivers and often reported as a UFO.
Tuesday, May 1
On this date in 1996, Comet Hyakutake was closest to Earth, 20 million miles away and a visible sight in evening skies. Causing some “comet fever” a year before Comet Hale-Bopp, this comet, an icy rock only 10 miles wide, won’t be back for another 70,000 years. Both comets were easy to see, but not the blazing “great comet” the Northern Hemisphere has been waiting since Halley’s in 1910.
Wednesday, May 2
You won’t see the largest constellation Hydra the Snake, but it is there snaking along southern horizon from west to east. It has no bright stars, and most are drowned out by light pollution. But it covers more of the sky than any other constellation. In fact, Hydra, Virgo and Ursa Major are visible in the Spring and all three take up almost 20 per cent of the night sky.
Thursday, May 3
Between Hydra along the horizon and Virgo in the high south are two constellations, Corvus the Crow, and Crater the Cup. Both are faint, but Corvus is recognizable as a lopsided square in dark skies. Crater has some stars that curve and is a star pattern that is supposed to be the goblet of god Apollo.
Friday, May 4
TMay the 4th be with you! This is “Star Wars Day,” so you might run into a character from that movie franchise. Saturn is below the Moon, rising together in Sagittarius at 12:30 am. On this date in 1989 STS-30 was launched, the Atlantis orbiter and five astronauts deploying the Magellan spacecraft for Venus
Saturday, May 5
The Moon rises at around 12:30 am between Saturn and Mars in the constellation Sagittarius. On this 1961 date in space history, America’s first spaceman, Alan Shepard, was launched on a rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida for a short 15-minute ride to the weightless environment of space and back to the Atlantic Ocean. Ten years later, Shepard stood on the Moon as commander of Apollo 14 in February 1971. He died in 1998.
Sunday, May 6
Tonight is the peak of the Eta Aquarid Meteor shower, and you might see up to 20 meteors an hour after midnight—and a bunch of strays throughout the evening. These “shooting stars” are sand grain-sized pieces of Halley’s Comet as Earth passes through its orbit. Halley’s Comet was last seen in 1986 and will return in 2061.
Monday, May 7
Find some time to sit out under the stars on a pleasant evening, soaking up some star shine and unleashing your mind to think about all the unseen worlds and possibilities right above your head.