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More chances to see the ISS, shuttle go by

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I guess this is the place for the good news and the bad news. The good news is shuttle mission STS-134 launched on Monday, May 16, on schedule and the orbiter docked with the ISS two days later.

The bad news is there will be incredibly few opportunities for viewing the docked pair in the coming days.

According to information gathered from www.heavens-above.com there will be four opportunities in the coming days to view an orbital pass of the joined ISS-orbiter from southwest Nebraska. Some will be near sunrise.

The first is Friday, May 27, at 4:41 am going from the southwest to southeast. It will be an almost overhead pass. The second is on Saturday, May 28, at 5:03 a.m. from the west-southwest to the northeast. This will be just before sunrise.

The third pass is on Sunday morning, May 29, at 3:50 a.m. from the southwest the the east-northeast. This pass also will be almost overhead. The forth pass is on Monday, May 30, at 4:13 a.m. from the west-southwest to the northeast. Happy hunting.

Enough about low-earth orbit, now to the stars.

I was reading recently about a new asterism, or at least new to me. An asterism is a pattern of stars that are part of a constellation or several constellations, but is not a constellation itself.

This one is the "Arch of Spring." I think we are all familiar with the Summer and Winter Triangles, and the Winter Circle. Now we have one for spring.

It is composed of four stars from three constellations and can be found in the west about an hour after sunset.

Let's start with the anchor stars of the arch, the two middle stars, Pollux and Castor, the two head stars of Gemini, the Twins. They can be found almost due west about a quarter of the way up from the horizon. Pollux is the one on the left.

Next, go to the left and arch down to find Procyon, the brightest star in Canis Minor, the Little Dog. Go back to the anchor stars then arch down and right for very bright Capella, the brightest star in Auriga, the Charioteer.

These four stars make a very nice arch in the spring evening sky. If you are outside a couple of hours later look in the east for our friends from the Summer Triangle. Vega, in Lyra, the Harp; Deneb, the tail star in Cygnus, the Swan; and Altair, in Aquila, the Eagle.

Our "Dance of the Planets" continues in the east just before sunrise. For the past couple of weeks Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury have been appearing together in a very tight grouping.

In the past couple of days Jupiter has departed the group and can be found a little higher up and to the right. It is bright enough that you can't miss it.

The other three still remain in a very tight group and will do so until the end of the month. The best time to observe the group is between a half-hour to 45-minutes before sunrise.

To view them a very clear, pancake-flat, uncluttered eastern horizon is needed as is a pair of binoculars.

As an extra added attraction to the dancing planets a very slender crescent moon will join the party. On May 29, look for the moon just above Jupiter. On May 30, the moon will be above Mars and Venus, and on May 31, look for a very slender crescent above and between Mercury and Venus.

As an extra added attraction, look for the tiny Pleiades star cluster just to the left of the moon. A word of warning, however. All of these groupings on May 31 will be extremely close to the horizon and may be lost in the soup.

Sky Watch:

Third-quarter moon was on May 24.

Next Week:

More astronomical blathering.

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Cloudy this morning; bummer.

-- Posted by croswind on Fri, May 27, 2011, at 7:29 AM

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