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Thursday, May 5, 2016

We won't be able to see the next one, either

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If we lived in Australia or New Zealand we would have been able to enjoy a total lunar eclipse last night.

We won't be able to see the Dec. 10 total lunar eclipse, either.

The astronomy class had a great evening for viewing last week. After a couple of months of cloudy skies we finally had a clear evening, although there was some doubt. But, about a half-hour before the class started the skies cleared.

We had a wonderful view of the first-quarter moon which gave a terrific view of the Straight Wall, a scarp or cliff extended some 65 miles across the face of the moon at an estimated 300 to 600 feet high.

Another target for the evening was the planet Saturn. As always, the ringed planet did not disappoint. The rings are opening up from their previous flat-line appearance of a few months ago. An extra added attraction was the visibility of one of Saturn's moons, Iapetus, and the close conjunction of Saturn with the star Porrima in Virgo, the Maiden.

Our final target for the evening was Epsilon Lyrae 1 and 2, the "Double Double" star. Not only are they a double star together, each of the component stars is a double, hence four stars. In binoculars the initial double is quite visible, for the doubling of the double a telescope is required.

We are rapidly wrapping up our classes as there are only two months left in our year-long adventure of studying the night sky.

Let's see, what else is left? In the western sky about an hour after local sunset our old friend Leo, the Lion is quite visible dipping downward toward the horizon. Just below him on the horizon are the two brightest stars on Gemini, Castor and Pollux.

Between them is the dim constellation Cancer, the Crab with the magnificent little star cluster M-44, also called the Beehive. It is quite visible in binoculars.

To the southwest is stretched out Virgo with Saturn in its lower right quadrant and nearby to the left the brightest star in Virgo, Spica. Take time for a glimpse of Saturn and Porrima. In the days to come Saturn will resume proper motion and move away from the star.

Below Virgo are the box-like constellations of Corvus and Crater. While in the southern part of the sky look for the three-star head of Scorpius peeking over the horizon.

Moving to the east the three stars of the Summer Triangle will clear the horizon by 9 pm local time. Above them is the "H"-shape of Hercules. This time of year Hercules is resting as he appears to be laying down on his side parallel with the horizon.

Located in the top side of the "H" is an exquisite little star cluster, M-13. It is one of the most brilliant star clusters visible in the sky. Binoculars will show the cluster, but in a telescope it will explode with the brilliance of its stars.

Sky Watch:

Full moon yesterday, total lunar eclipse visible in the southern hemisphere. In the morning sky about a half-hour before local sunrise brilliant Venus will be very low on the horizon. Just up and right if dim Mars and further up Jupiter will be found. Mars is so dim because it is on the far side of the sun from Earth.

Next Week:

More astronomical blathering

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