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Shuttle derby still in 'hold' mode

Thursday, May 12, 2011

In the "Launch the Shuttle Derby" we are still at the "any minute now and holding." At last word from NASA, the launch will not be before May 16. Since this is being written well before that date, I won't know if they did or didn't.

There won't be much good viewing this week as the moon will be full on May 17. That will erase almost everything in the sky worth looking at.

However, the early morning "Traveling Planet Show" is still going on, and will be for most of the rest of the month.

Find a nice place with an absolutely clear view of the eastern horizon. Be out 45-minutes to a half-hour before local sunrise and have your trusty pair of binoculars with you, they will be needed.

The planets -- in order from top to bottom -- will be Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury in a line slanting down and to the right.

Mars will be almost directly left of little Mercury and will be much dimmer because Mars is on the far side of the sun from Earth.

If you put the planetary trio on the extreme right side of your field of view, Mars will be on the opposite extreme left. You may have to fudge left a little, but the small, white dot of Mars will show up against the glare of sunrise.

If you go out each morning look and see what configuration the planets are in then watch as they change places each day. I would advise the observer to sketch a small picture of the arrangement so you can keep better track of it.

As you know, I am not necessarily an early morning astronomer, but I will be getting up for this one.

In other places in the sky, our old friend Orion is about gone in the west at sunset as is Taurus, the Bull, and Perseus. If you look due north the Big Dipper is still showing as upside down with the dipper part pouring out the water for the spring showers.

In the east about an hour after sunset the "H" form of Hercules can be found with Bootes above it.

If you look in the northeast about an hour after sunset one of the stars, and its associated constellation, are just rising. The star is very bright Vega in the constellation Lyra. Vega marks the top of the Summer Triangle asterism.

We can watch in the coming weeks as the rest of the triangle clears the horizon.

Sky Watch:

Full moon, May 17.

Next Week:

More astronomical blathering.


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Vernon Whetstone
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