Celestial events in the skies for the week of May 22-28, 2018, as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
Memorial Day weekend when everyone is outside and enjoying the good weather—and certainly looking up at the Moon and stars this week. And the brightest “star” in the entire night sky is planet Jupiter rising in the southeast after sunset. The Moon dominates the early evening, starting the week at First Quarter and filling the holiday weekend with moonshine.
Tuesday, May 22
On this 1969 date in space history, astronauts Gene Cernan, 80, and John Young, 83, flew their Apollo 10 moon ship to within 10 miles of Mare Tranquility in a full-dress rehearsal of a Moon landing. A confused computer created wild bucking of their moon ship named “Snoopy” for a half-a-minute of anxious moments, causing astronaut Gene Cernan to cuss over a live transmission. But the glitch was figured out by him and Tom Stafford, 86, and they return to Earth aboard the command ship “Charlie Brown” with John Young. Two months later, Apollo 11 landed at the spot scouted out by the NASA mission 45 years ago this week. Young walked on the Moon with Apollo 16, and Cernan was the last man on the Moon with Apollo 17. They are both deceased.
Wednesday, May 23
Jupiter rises throughout the night in the constellation Libra the Scales. There are no bright stars in small Libra, which is just to the west of Scorpio’s body and the bright, red star Antares.
Thursday, May 24
On this 1962 date in space history, Scott Carpenter, deceased, became the second American to orbit the Earth, duplicating the three orbits of John Glenn the previous February. Carpenter landed 250 miles off course in the Atlantic Ocean, taking 45 minutes to find in his life raft next to his Mercury capsule. He never flew in space again, but in 1965, for Sealab II, he spent 28 days living on the ocean floor off the coast of California.
Friday, May 25
On this date in 2008 when NASA’s spacecraft Phoenix landed on the North Pole, right on top of ice just inches beneath the red soil. Phoenix wasn’t mobile and completed its successful 90-day mission with discoveries of ice melting in front of its cameras and snow falling high up in the atmosphere. The precipitation “sublimated,” going from solid to gas, skipping the liquid state.
Saturday, May 26
Photographers will be delighted at the weekend opportunity to photograph the rising Moon over the eastern landscape. With full phase on Tuesday, the gibbous Moon will look big and bright next to terrestrial landscape.
Sunday, May 27
Jupiter rises just four degrees south of the gibbous Moon, a clinched fist held at arm’s length is about 5 degrees across. Any telescope will show Jupiter’s globe and its four moons looking like tiny stars.
Monday, May 28
Memorial Day. If you stayed up late last night, or got up before dawn this morning, you can see the planets, from west to east (right to left) Jupiter, Saturn and Mars strung across the south skies. Saturn and Mars are in Sagittarius, the heart of the Milky Way. All three planets will dominate our late Summer and Autumn evening skies.