Evening twilight, last week of April. Image: Starry Night/Judy Isacoff

EYES TO THE SKY: Planets, crescent moons, Taurus’ third horn, Eta Aquariid meteors

Even faint shooting stars may be visible in dark skies in locations away from artificial light. The peak of the Eta Aquariids is predicted to be before dawn Sunday morning, May 5.

April 29 – May 12, 2019

Mount Washington — For delight in discovery, plan to observe many fleeting moments that mark the movement of the seasons and other special events in the sky this week. Beginning with the short window of evening twilight, bid farewell to the scintillating stars of winter constellations close to the horizon in the west. Linger with Sirius, the Dog Star; Orion’s Betelgeuse and belt stars; Taurus’ Aldebaran. See planet Mars – like a unicorn’s horn marked by a red “star” – above the head of the Bull. Sunset is at 7:49 p.m. tonight; look by 9 p.m. all week, until they disappear.

Swing around to face east to meet spring star Arcturus, second in brilliance to Sirius, halfway to zenith in the early evening and overhead by 11 p.m. Arcturus follows Leo the Lion, found striding high in the southeast early and later in the south.

Morning twilight, April 29, 30, May 1, 2019, about 5:15 a.m. See crescent moon, southeast, between the planets, Summer Triangle above. Moon fades earlier May 1. Image: Starry Night/Judy Isacoff

Considering that the nighttime heavens show spring at zenith and winter setting in the west, it is predictable that Summer is about to rise in the east. This week, the Summer Triangle’s brightest star, Vega, leads the procession. Vega, second in visual magnitude to Arcturus, rises in the northeast as our Sun sets in the northwest. See Vega follow Arcturus all night. The second of the three points of the Triangle, Deneb, rises half an hour after Vega. Altair completes the Summer Triangle close to midnight, when it climbs above the horizon in the east.

You don’t need to find the radiant of the Eta Aquariid shower to watch this meteor shower. But if you’re interested in locating it, use the Great Square of Pegasus to star-hop to the radiant of the Eta Aquariid meteor shower. May 4,5,6, 2019. Image courtesy EarthSky.org

Looking to the morning sky, there is also a short window of opportunity to observe a heavenly meet-up close above the horizon; the east to southwest skyline this time. Brilliant planet Venus rises in the east close to 5 a.m. tomorrow. A waning crescent moon clears the east-southeast horizon at about 4:15 a.m. tomorrow and 4:40 a.m. on May 1. Jupiter is well above the south-southwest skyline, having risen around midnight. Sunrise tomorrow, April 30, is at 5:57 a.m. Find an unobstructed horizon view about 50 minutes before sunrise today, tomorrow and May 1. On May 2 at about 5:30 a.m., with the aid of a telescope or binoculars, we might spot Mercury to the left and below Venus; fingernail crescent moon below right.

New moon, when the moon is dark, occurs on May 4. New moon is the best time for a meteor shower. Even faint shooting stars may be visible in dark skies in locations away from artificial light. The peak of the Eta Aquariids is predicted to be before dawn Sunday morning, May 5. Heads-up for meteors between May 4 and 6. Sunrise from May 4 through 6 is around 5:45 a.m. Complete darkness ends by 4 a.m.

Waxing crescents with winter stars and Mars: the second week of this post. Image courtesy EarthSky.org

See Resources for more about the Eta Aquariids.


Meteor shower

Mother Nature Network – https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/space