Sky at a Glance 2020 May 23 – 30

Photo showing the constellation Draco the Dragon in relation to the Big and Little Dippers (Ursa Major and Minor).

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 May 23 – 30 ~by Curt Nason

By 10 pm the zigzag constellation of Draco the Dragon is halfway up the northern sky to the right of the Little Dipper. Draco’s tail is a line of stars between the Big and Little Dippers. One of those stars is Thuban, which lies between the bowl of the Little Dipper and the middle of the Big Dipper’s handle. About 5000 years ago, when the Egyptian pyramids were built, Thuban was the North Star and entrances to the pyramids were designed with a descending passageway aligned to this star. Coincidentally, the inner two stars of the Big Dipper’s bowl point to Thuban, just as the outer pair points toward Polaris.

>From the tail, Draco arcs around the bowl of the Little Dipper and then curves back toward Hercules, with its head being a quadrilateral of stars by the strongman’s foot. The two brightest stars in Draco’s head, Eltanin and Rastaban, are its eyes. They are the brightest and third brightest of the constellation. The faintest of the four is a treat in binoculars, showing matching white stars that resemble headlights or cat eyes. In mythology, the dragon was one of the Titans, rivals of the Olympians. In one of their battles, Athena slung the dragon high into the northern sky. Writhing to right itself, it struck against the northern sky and froze in that position.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:37 am and sunset will occur at 8:54 pm, giving 15 hours, 17 minutes of daylight (5:45 am and 8:56 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:32 am and set at 9:01 pm, giving 15 hours, 29 minutes of daylight (5:40 am and 9:03 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter next Friday, giving spectacular views of craters and mountains all week in a telescope or binoculars. This Saturday around 9:30 pm look for the slim crescent Moon a binocular width below and slightly left of the crescent Venus, with Mercury about half a binocular field to the upper left of Venus. This will be your last week to see Venus in the evening sky for the rest of the year. Jupiter and Saturn are in great position for early morning observing in the south, while reddish Mars brightens in the southeast.

With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm and view archived shows. This week’s topic will be telescope accessories.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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