This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 May 4 – May 11 ~by Curt Nason
May 6-12 is International Astronomy Week, and May 11 is Astronomy Day. Astronomy Day had its beginning in 1973 in California when amateur astronomers set up telescopes in busy urban areas to let people have views of the Moon and planets, hence its motto of “Bringing Astronomy to the People.” Astronomy Day is usually held on the Saturday nearest the first quarter Moon between mid-April and mid-May. More recently, a Fall Astronomy Day was added between mid-September and mid-October, when sunset is earlier and the weather is often better for observing.
Sidewalk astronomy, setting telescopes up in within a busy area of a community, is a popular activity during Astronomy Week. Often people will question why we are set up there, near streetlights, when their expectation is that nothing can be seen. The Moon and most planets, those celestial objects having the greatest “Wow Factor” for first-time observers, are bright enough that lighting has little effect on the views. If they are intrusive you can simply block them with your hand. Sidewalk observing events are often done on short notice, depending on the weather and whether the Moon or planets are visible.
See below for two Astronomy Week activities in New Brunswick. For details on other activities throughout the year, see the websites and social media pages for the NB Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC NB), the Saint John Astronomy Club, Astronomy Moncton, or the William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club in Fredericton. We hope to put stars in your eyes!
This Week in the Solar System
Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:01 am and sunset will occur at 8:31 pm, giving 14 hours, 30 minutes of daylight (6:08 am and 8:33 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:52 am and set at 8:39 pm, giving 14 hours, 47 minutes of daylight (5:59 am and 8:42 pm in Saint John).
The Moon is new on May 4 and at first quarter on Astronomy Day, May 11. It will be seen near Mars on Tuesday evening and near M44, the Beehive star cluster, on Friday. Jupiter and Saturn garner morning attention by framing the Teapot asterism of Sagittarius to the south. Mercury is too close to the Sun for morning observing, and Venus rises less than an hour before sunrise. The Eta Aquariid meteor shower peaks Sunday morning; the weather looks promising and there is no Moon in the sky. Stay up late or get up very early and look toward the south or northeast. The radiant, in Aquarius, rises around 3 am and, with luck, we might see a dozen shooting stars per hour before twilight. This is one of two annual meteor showers resulting from material shed by Halley’s Comet, but it is seen better from the southern hemisphere.
The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretative Centre at 7 pm on Saturday, May 4. On Thursday at 7 pm I am giving a presentation to seniors on The Joys of Stargazing at the Rothesay Town Hall. On Friday evening, May 10, public observing events are scheduled at Dutch Point Park in Hampton (8-11) and at Moncton High School (9:30-11). All are welcome.
Questions? Contact Curt Nason.