Camelopardalid peteor shower mostly a sprinkle

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Well, the May Camelopardalid meteor shower was mostly a bust. The hoped-for meteor storm from the debris stream produced by comet 209P/Linear just didn't happen. Reports received from around North America indicated there were a few bright streaks and a few fireballs but that was about it.

Discovered in 2004, the comet was an unknown quantity. Add in that the debris stream Earth was passing through was left behind when the comet passed through in the 1800s there was really not enough to support the expected "thousands of meteors an hour" predictions being bantered about.

Oh well, perhaps next year.

This week -- and for part of next -- we are going to follow the moon and allow it to be our guide for a few planets and other things astronomical. Let's start on Friday, May 30, looking west about an hour after sunset, or if you have a very flat, clear western horizon you might start at about a half-hour after sunset.

Look for the very thin crescent of a two-day old moon just above the horizon. To the moon's right a little farther than the width of your clenched fist held at arms length is a small, bright dot that is the planet Mercury.

If you put a pair of binoculars on Mercury, and if the sky is dark enough, you might glimpse the open star cluster M35 just up and left of the planet in the same field of view.

The next night, Saturday, May 31, be out at between 9:30 and 10 p.m. local time again looking west for a slightly fatter moon just below the bright planet Jupiter. They won't be too close, about the width of your clenched fist apart.

Binoculars might show the four Galilean moons spread out on both sides of the planet, even a small telescope will give a better view. Look for two on one side and two on the other.

On the evenings of June 3 and 4, the growing crescent moon will bracket the bright star Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo, the Lion. Regulus is the star at the end of the backwards question mark that shows Leo's head and mane.

On Saturday, June 7, the just-passed first quarter moon will be very close to the reddish planet Mars. Both will be in the same binocular field of view. The next day the moon moves on to be near the star Spica in the constellation Virgo, the Maiden high in the south.

However, the brightness of the moon may wash out the star. Use binoculars to pick it out just to the right of the moon.

The moon will then bracket our old friend, the ringed-planet Saturn on Monday and Tuesday, June ninth and tenth. If you have a telescope take a look at the rings. They are positioned well for a good viewing.

Finally on Wednesday, June 11, a very bright moon will be near the star Antares, the heart of Scorpius, the Scorpion. The star will be about six degrees to the lower right. Look toward the south.

We have looked mostly west and south but there are other things in other directions. For example, looking north we find the Big and Little Dippers making a fine showing these evenings, and in the early morning east just before sunrise the very bright planet Venus is still holding court as "Queen of the Morning."

SKYWATCH: New moon tonight, May 28.

NEXT WEEK: Our old friend, the Summer Triangle, and more astronomical blathering.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: