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May 2007
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Download this month's sky map!

Kym Thalassoudis does a wonderful job creating accurate and easy to use star maps every month! Visit his site at for skymaps and links to other useful astronomical sites. Also a great portal for astronomical gifts!

Northern hemisphere sky map
Southern hemisphere sky map

Those in the Southern Hemisphere should also visit James Barclay's site for a great tour of the Southern Hemisphere December sky.

Another great site for Southern Hemisphere viewers is the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand's Southern Hemisphere Calendar can be found at the RASNZ site
Ian Musgrave has a very handy Southern Hemisphere site called Southern Sky Watch.

Download "What's up 2007: 365 days of Skywatching" by Tammy Plotner, published by Universe Today (Faser Cain) it is a fantastic and it is free!

Planets for May 2007

  • Mercury- After reaching superior conjunction on the 3rd Mercury moves into the evening sky for the best view those in the NHemisphere will get all year. From May 18-June 12th look for Mercury between Venus and the horizon after sunset. -2.0 mag (1st) to -0.6 mag (21st)
  • Venus- High in the sky after dark Venus continues to highlight the western sky. At the beginning of the month Venus will pass between the horns of Taurus the Bull as she continues to move Eastward towards M35 and Gemini. -4.0 mag (1st) to - 4.1 mag (21st)
  • Mars- At the beginning of the month, Mars rises about 2.5 hours before the Sun in the constellation Aquarius 4.5 degrees East of Uranus. The Red Planet moves into Pisces on the 9th , Cetus on the 24th before returning to Pisces on the 29th...Mars isn't moving backwards it is only that it is clipping a corner of Cetus that sticks up into Pisces. 1.0 mag (1st) to 0.9 mag (21st)
  • Jupiter- Continues to rise earlier everyday and will spend the month in Ophiucus moving ever so slowly towards Antares. -2.5 mag (1st) to -2.6 mag (21st)
  • Saturn-Absolutely beautiful in Leo almost at the Cancer border. Saturn's rings are tipped 15 deg from edgewise towards us so take advantage of these beautiful rings. The ringed planet is 90degrees east of the Sun so all month its globe will casts its shadows eastward onto the rings. 0.4 mag (1st) to 0.5 mag (21st)
  • Uranus-In Aquarius about 4.5 degrees west of Mars at the beginning of the month stretching to 23 degrees west by the end of the month. 5.9 mag (1st) to 5.9 mag (21st)
  • Neptune-Will camp out in Capricorn all year long and is 2.5 degree NW of Delta Capricorni. 7.9 mag (1st) to 7.9 mag (21st)
  • 4 Vesta -Categorized as a minor planet (Vesta family Main Belt) we are adding her to the mix this month because she will be not far from Jupiter this month and at a magnitude of 5.4 - 6.0 will be a good naked eye object for May and June. Vesta is the second most massive object in the asteroid belt with a mean diameter of 540 km and was named after the Roman goddess of home and hearth. So even though she was never a mother herself step outside on Mother's Day and take a look for this bright asteroid.

Key Dates for May 2007

Days and Times in UT (help with time)
Observations are for 8pm for the mid-southern latitudes and for 10pm for the mid-northern latitudes.

Great site for sunrise and sunset times and a downloadable toolbar application by Steve Edwards

Occultation information can be found at the IOTA website! Astronomical Highlights

2 - Full Moon 10:09 UT

- Ladies, go take the women in astronomy survey at Sky and Telescope Magazine!
3 - Mercury at Superior conjunction (moving into the evening sky)
4 - Moon near Antares: 19:00 UT possible occultation from SE Africa, Tasmania and New Zealand
5 - Moon near Jupiter 11:00 UT
6 - Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks 12:00 UT (April 19-May 28) Southern Hemisphere skywatcher will have a better view!
10 - Last Quarter Moon 4:27 UT
12 - Moon near Uranus (6 UT) and Mars (23 UT) in the morning sky. Possible occultation visible from E. Newfoundland and Greenland.
15 - Moon at perigee (closest to Earth) 359,392 km
16 - New Moon 19:27 UT
17 - Moon near Mercury, both very close to the setting sun!
20 - Crescent Moon near Venus at sunset. Good photo op!
22 - Moon near Saturn
23 - First Quarter Moon 21:03 UT
27 - Moon at apogee (furthest from Earth) 405,460 km
30 - Mercury 1.1 degrees N of M35 (23 deg E)

Monthly Messier*

More galaxies this month warming up with those around Ursa Major and Canes Venatici and then heading to the fringes of the Virgo galaxy region! Most of these can be detected in binoculars or small telescopes and I recommend doing so just for the practice of navigation, averted vision and patience! Then you can pull out the telescope and enjoy the delicate spiral arms and tease-out identifying features.

M51 - The famous Whirlpool galaxy in Canes Venatici is a bright face on spiral with a smaller elliptical companion, NGC 5195. Look for a pair of fuzzy patches of light. The slightly larger and brighter one is M51. Make sure to spend some time here; as there is almost always some spiral structure to be seen, on good nights the detail possible is unbelievable. This is a difficult but very possible object in binoculars appearing as a hazy patch of light.

M63 - Another spiral galaxy in Canes Venatici smaller and fainter than M51, but seen more edge on so the galaxy appears as an elongated patch of light with a bright star at one end. Further inspection will show a faint halo around this patch. A difficult object in binoculars.

M94 - Just past M63 is another galaxy in Canes Vanitici. Look for a bright fuzzy star to find the core of M94, surrounded by a faint haze. A tough binocular object.

M101 - Some times we luck out and get two objects together in the scope (like M81 M82) and some times three (like the Leo trio) but instead of being a two-fer M101 is a ....twelve-fer! Not only can you count M101 as possibly M102 (although I don't) you also have 10 other galaxies wrapped around the outside of this spiral galaxy in Ursa Major.

You will have to work for M101 as it is one of the most difficult Messier objects to find in a telescope. This is a large faint patch of light almost as big as the full moon. Use low power and look for a brighter part of the sky, more of a change in contrast than an object at first glance, which is the galaxy. Dark skies really help in the search of this one and are a to find M101 in binoculars.

M102 - Not an official Messier object in most references, we will look for the galaxy NGC 5866 which is a popular favorite for the 102nd slot in Messier's catalogue. Look for a small, faint patch light that looks like a short fuzzy cigar.

M64 - In a telescope this galaxy in Coma Berenices is a fairly bright, slightly oval shaped patch of light. Look for the dark lane, which gives this galaxy the common name Black Eye. The galaxy appears as a faint fuzzy patch in binoculars.

M85 - This elliptical galaxy lies in Coma Berenices just north of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. This appears as a bright, but small, patch of light with a bright stellar core.

M49 - This is an elliptical galaxy in Virgo just south of the main cluster of galaxies. M49 is round patch of light with bright center gradually fading to a round halo. M49 looks like a faint fuzzy star in binoculars. Use Art Russell's star hop sheets to help you find M49, M61 and other Virgo galaxies!

M61 - This is a face on spiral galaxy just south of M49 in Virgo, but much fainter. Look for a faint, round fuzzy patch of light.

M104 - This is the well-known Sombrero galaxy in Virgo. It is bright edge on spiral galaxy, which looks like a bright, elongated streak. It is very possible to see in binoculars.

For navigating the Virgo Cluster I highly recommend "Mastering the Virgo Cluster" by Alan M MacRobert; Sky & Telescope (Archives); May 1994; 42;

*Monthly Messier information gleaned from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Moncton Centre Quebec and from the Astronomy Connection website.

Historical and Current Events

...Did you know?


1 - Beltane (alt May 4-10) -cross quarter day, beginning of traditional summer
4 -Space Day
5 - Alan Shepard became the first American in space. Mercury Freedom 7 1961
5 - Happy Birthday Ric!
6 - Willem de Sitter's 135th Birthday (1872)
15 - Williamina Paton Fleming's 150th Birthday (1857)
17 - Norman Lockyer's 172nd Birthday (important for all birthdays and for those who like to sound like Donald Duck!)
21 - John F. Kennedy makes his famous speech to the U.S. Congress
24 - 45th Anniversary (1962), Aurora 7 Launch (Scott Carpenter)
28 - First primates to reach space and return successfully. Abel and Baker (rhesus and squirrel monkeys respectively), both returned alive.
29 - John F. Kennedy's 90th Birthday (1917)
31 - Martin Schwarzschild's 95th Birthday (1912)

Astronomical Highlights for 2007

Earth's major motions for 2007
Jan 3 20h(UT)
First Cross Quarter Day
Feb 2-6
Mar 21 00:07(UT)
Second Cross Quarter Day
May 4-7
June 21 18:06(UT)
July 4 00h (UT)
Third Cross Quarter Day
Aug 5-8
Sept 23 19:51(UT)
Fourth Cross Quarter Day
Nov 5-8
Dec 22 06:08(UT)

Planet Positions for 2007

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Venus Sgr Aqr Psc Ari Tau Gem Leo Sex Cnc Leo Leo Vir
Mars Oph Sgr Cap Cap Aqr Psc Ari Tau Tau Gem Gem Gem
Jupiter Oph Oph Oph Oph Oph Oph Oph Oph Oph Oph Oph Oph
Saturn Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo Leo
Uranus Aqu Aqu Aqu Aqu Aqu Aqu Aqu Aqu Aqu Aqu Aqu Aqu
Neptune Cap Cap Cap Cap Cap Cap Cap Cap Cap Cap Cap Cap

Eclipses for 2007

March 19 - partial solar eclipse (see map, times, and animation!): The first solar eclipse of 2007 occurs at the Moon's ascending node in Pisces and is visible from eastern Asia and parts of northern Alaska

September 11 - partial solar eclipse (see map, times, and animation): The last eclipse of 2007 is a partial solar eclipse at the Moon's descending node in southern Leo. Its visibility is confined to parts of South America, Antarctica and the South Atlantic

March 3-4 - total lunar eclipse (see map): The beginning of the umbral phase visible in the Arctic region, Africa, Europe, Asia except for extreme eastern region, most of Indonesia, western Australia, Queen Maud Land of Antarctica, extreme eastern South America, Greenland, the Indian Ocean, the South Atlantic Ocean, and the eastern North Atlantic Ocean; the end visible in Africa, Europe, western Asia, Queen Maud Land of Antarctica and Antarctic Peninsula, South America, eastern North America, Greenland, the Arctic region, the Atlantic Ocean, the western Indian Ocean, and the extreme eastern South Pacific Ocean.

August 28 - total lunar eclipse (see map): The beginning of the umbral phase visible in North America, South America except extreme east, Antarctica except for Enderby Land, New Zealand, eastern Australia, extreme northeastern Asia, the Pacific Ocean, and the western Atlantic Ocean; the end visible in New Zealand, Australia, most of Antarctica except Queen Maud Land, Indonesia, eastern Asia, western North America, the Pacific Ocean, and the southeastern Indian Ocean.

Eclipse information from: NASA Eclipse Homepage, Eclipses Online (HM Nautical Almanac Office, UK in coordination with the U.S. Naval Observatory)

Meteor Showers for 2007

As luck would have it, all the major meteor showers reach their peaks in 2007 with the Moon out of the sky. Any of these showers can produce dozens of shooting stars each dark hour leading up to dawn.

Mark your calendar to look for...
  • Lyrids on April 23rd
  • Perseids on August 13th
  • Orionids on October 21st
  • Leonids on November 18th
  • Geminids on the night of December 13-14 (Meteor enthusiasts are keenly awaiting the Geminids in 2007 because their progenitor, the defunct comet Phaethon, precedes them in a flyby of Earth on December 10th.)

Comets for May

Gary Kronk's comet and meteor pages
Skyhound Comet pages

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Music Scottish Guitar Quartet -"Romance within you"
Boom Boom Beckett - "In a sentimental mood"
Aff the Cuff - "I'll tell me Ma" -(not what we want to hear on Mother's Day!)

Direct download: AAGG_sky_tour_May_07.mp3
Category:Sky Tours -- posted at: 11:36 AM