Sky at a Glance May 26 – June 2

Photo of the constellation Draco in the northern sky, including a binocular treat in the dragon's head.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, May 26 – June 2 ~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 sky and froze in that position.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:35 am and sunset will occur at 8:57 pm, giving 15 hours, 22 minutes of daylight (5:43 am and 8:59 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:30 am and set at 9:04 pm, giving 15 hours, 34 minutes of daylight (5:38 am and 9:06 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is near Jupiter on Sunday and it is full on Tuesday, the Mi’kmaq Frog Croaking Moon. Saturn now rises around 11 pm, a little before Venus sets and Jupiter is transits the north-south meridian. Jupiter’s Red Spot can be seen in a telescope at high power on Sunday at 11 pm and on Friday at 10 pm. If I drag my telescope out early enough I can now see the polar ice cap of Mars and dark ground features, and the views will get even better over the next two months as it moves into the evening sky.

RASC NB, the provincial astronomy club, meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre in Saint John on May 26 at 1 pm for astronomy talks. The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the same location on June 2 at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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