This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2022 April 30 – May 7
~by Curt Nason
I was fascinated by the movie Hercules, starring bodybuilder Steve Reeves, which I saw one Saturday afternoon at the Vogue theatre in McAdam sometime in the early 60s. I was nurturing my interest in the sky at that time so the constellation of Hercules has long been a part of my life. These spring evenings it is in the east as twilight fades.
Look for a keystone asterism one third of the way from the bright star Vega toward equally bright Arcturus; that is the upside-down body of the legendary strongman. Hercules is usually depicted down on his right knee, with his left foot on the head of Draco the Dragon and his head close to that of Ophiuchus. Originally the constellation was called The Kneeler, and the star at his head is called Rasalgethi for “head of the Kneeler.” It is the alpha star of the constellation, although Kornephoros (the club bearer) is brighter.
With binoculars you can pick out two globular clusters from the Messier catalogue in Hercules. Globular clusters are ancient compact groups of typically tens-to-hundreds of thousands of stars that orbit our galaxy’s core. One third of the way from the top right star of the Keystone to the bottom right star is M13, perhaps the finest globular cluster in the northern hemisphere. A line from the bottom right star through the middle of the top of the Keystone, and extended about an equal distance, will put you in the area of M92, one of the oldest objects in our galaxy.
This Week in the Solar System
Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:07 am and sunset will occur at 8:26 pm, giving 14 hours, 19 minutes of daylight (6:14 am and 8:29 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:57 am and set at 8:35 pm, giving 14 hours, 38 minutes of daylight (6:04 am and 8:37 pm in Saint John).
The Moon is new this Saturday and on Monday it visits Mercury and the Pleaides to celebrate the beginning of Astronomy Week. On Friday the Moon lines up with the Gemini Twins, Pollux and Castor, and the following evening it is within a binocular view of the Beehive star cluster in Cancer. Mercury remains within a binocular view upper left of the Pleiades over the week. The highlight of the week will be a close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter this Saturday, with the possibility of seeing Venus less than a moon-width below Jupiter around noon with a telescope. Use binoculars to look for Venus nearly halfway up the sky toward the southwest, while blocking the Sun with a building. Mars and Saturn are equally spaced to the upper right of the pair in the early morning. The Eta Aquariid meteor shower peaks on Friday morning, providing a chance to see a remnant of Halley’s Comet rising from the eastern horizon. Unseen to us, Uranus is in solar conjunction on Thursday.
On Sunday evening at 8 pm, tune in to the Sunday Night Astronomy Show via the Facebook page or YouTube channel of Astronomy by the Bay.
Questions? Contact Curt Nason.