Sky at a Glance 2022 May 28 – June 4

Photo showing the location of the constellations Serpens and Hydra the Water Snake in the night sky.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2022 May 28 – June 4 ~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 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 you 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 5:34 am and sunset will occur at 8:59 pm, giving 15 hours, 25 minutes of daylight (5:42 am and 9:01 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:30 am and set at 9:05 pm, giving 15 hours, 35 minutes of daylight (5:38 am and 9:07 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is new on Monday, making this a good weekend to explore the realm of the galaxies among the constellations of Virgo, Leo, Coma Berenices, Canes Venatici and Ursa Major. Over the weekend and into Monday, Mars passes a little more than a Moon-width below Jupiter. You will have to be up before the robins to catch this colourful sight as they rise around 3 am. Come midweek Saturn is rising around 1:30 and Venus around 4. Mercury has joined the morning planetary parade but it will be a couple of weeks before it gets bright enough to emerge from twilight. Some astronomers are predicting the possibility of a meteor shower very early Tuesday morning, resulting from an outburst of comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann in 1995. If it occurs they are likely to be dim and emanate from the area of the bright star Arcturus in the west. I saw three pieces of that comet in 2006.

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.

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