Sky at a Glance 2020 May 30 – June 6

Photo showing two of the "snake" constellations--Serpens and Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 May 30 – June 6 ~by Curt Nason

When Charley Pride sang “Snakes Crawl at Night” he wasn’t talking about the constellations, but he might as well have been. When twilight gives way to darkness there are two snakes stretching nearly halfway across the sky. The first is Hydra the female water snake, which is also the largest constellation. It is so long it takes eight hours to rise completely. At 11 pm these evenings it stretches along the horizon with its head in the west and its tail to the south. In this position the snake takes only three hours to nestle underground

Almost as long but more U-shaped is Serpens, the only constellation that is in two parts, separated by Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer. The western half is called Serpens Caput, the head of the snake, and the eastern half is the tail, Serpens Cauda. Ophiuchus represents Asclepius, a son of the Greek god Apollo, who learned the healing arts by watching a snake bring another back to life. The Rod of Asclepius, a snake entwined around a staff, is the symbol of medicine and health.

If your like things in threes you can look at serpentine Draco as a snake instead of a dragon. Its tail begins above the bowl of the Big Dipper, with the body curling around the Little Dipper before arcing back toward the foot of Hercules. If that doesn’t suit you then you can go Down Under to see Hydrus the male water snake slithering around the south celestial pole.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:32 am and sunset will occur at 9:01 pm, giving 15 hours, 29 minutes of daylight (5:40 am and 9:03 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:29 am and set at 9:07 pm, giving 15 hours, 38 minutes of daylight (5:37 am and 9:09 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full next Friday, the traditional Rose, Flower, Strawberry, Honey, or Trees Fully Leaved Moon. Venus is at inferior conjunction on Wednesday, moving into the morning sky in mid-June. Mercury remains visible in the evening, setting around 10 pm on Tuesday and reaching its greatest elongation from the Sun on Thursday. By midweek Jupiter rises at midnight, followed 15 minutes later by Saturn. After passing both those planets in late March, Mars now trails them by two hours. Unless C/2010 F8 SWAN flares following its recent maiden voyage around the Sun, it will be the second comet this year to disappoint hopeful stargazers in the northern hemisphere. Perhaps C/2020 F3 NEOWISE will live up to naked-eye predictions in July.

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 topics will be part 2 of telescope accessories and how to plan for a successful observing session.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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