This Week’s Sky at a Glance, May 6 – May 13 ~by Curt Nason
Last week we found the constellation Hercules by looking two-thirds of the way from Arcturus to Vega, the fourth and fifth brightest stars in the sky. One third of the way to Vega is a pretty semicircle of stars that makes up Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. In the middle of the semicircle is the constellation’s brightest star, called Gemma (jewel) or Alphecca (bright star of the broken ring), among other names. In the past year the International Astronomical Union approved official names for about 240 stars, and Alphecca was chosen over Gemma.
Some ancient societies regarded the constellation as a begging bowl, and in local aboriginal legend it is the cave from which the bear (the bowl of the Big Dipper) emerges in spring. In Greek mythology it was a crown worn by Bacchus, the god of wine, who lived on the island of Naxos. Theseus, an Athenian prince, went to Crete as part of a group of youth who were to be placed in the labyrinth as food for the Minotaur. With the aid of Ariadne, the beautiful daughter of King Minos, Theseus slew the Minotaur and found his way out of the labyrinth. In love with Ariadne, he took her aboard to sail back to Athens. They stopped at Naxos where Bacchus also fell in love with Ariadne, and made Theseus leave without her. To prove his love and his godliness to the skeptical Ariadne, he tossed the crown into the sky as a symbol of her beauty. Immortality and a lifetime supply of wine, who could pass that up?
This Week in the Solar System
Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:58 am and sunset will occur at 8:34 pm, giving 14 hours, 36 minutes of daylight (6:05 am and 8:36 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:48 am and set at 8:42 pm, giving 14 hours, 54 minutes of daylight (5:56 am and 8:45 pm in Saint John).
The Moon is near Jupiter on Sunday and full on Wednesday, the Frog Croaking Moon. Jupiter rules the sky throughout the night, something Venus cannot do. Perhaps this is why Jupiter was selected to represent the king of the gods in ancient Rome. Mars passes above the Hyades star cluster this week, a good opportunity to compare its colour with that of orange Aldebaran using binoculars. Brilliant Venus starts its morning shift 30-40 minutes before Jupiter ends the night shift. Mercury rises 45-50 minutes before the Sun but you might need binoculars to see it. Next Saturday, May 13, the Moon and Saturn rise together shortly after 11 pm.
The Saint John Astronomy Club meets at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre at 7 pm on Saturday, May 6. The Fredericton Astronomy Club meets on Tuesday at 7 pm in the UNB Forestry / Earth Sciences Building, That will also be the venue for a 1 pm meeting of the provincial club, RASC NB, on May 13. All are welcome.
Questions? Contact Curt Nason.