Greetings Fellow StarGazers!
If you want to enjoy the last views of our winter and spring night sky objects, you had better get outside early these next few evenings. With sunset around 8:30 pm, and civil twilight ending around 9:15, you can still catch Venus bright in the western sky before she says good-bye until next year. Also, Orion, Perseus, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Taurus, and all the winter hexagon constellations are going down quickly until late autumn. That’s okay because we still have the Big & Little Dippers, Leo, Virgo, Bootes, Lyra, and several others to observe and enjoy.
Once upon a time, the comings and goings of our constellations were how farmers knew what crops to plant and when. While we no longer need to depend on those signs, we know that the arrival of certain constellations and planets earlier in the eastern night sky means summer and warmer weather are on the way. We have included the Evening Sky Map link below so you can check out what night sky objects are most easily viewed with the naked eye, binoculars, and telescope for May.
EVENING SKY MAP LINK
One highlight over the next few weeks will be Comet Swan as it graces our night sky. While Comet Atlas broke apart and didn’t quite live up to expectations, we’re fairly certain Swan is going to deliver an incredible show. Currently, Swan can be seen with the naked eye at around magnitude 5 rapidly moving into the pre-dawn eastern sky (through Pisces) of our southern latitudes (Florida). Reminder: magnitude refers to brightness. The lower the number, the brighter the object. Our naked eye sees magnitude 6 objects and under.
By May 21, Swan should hit a peak brightness of magnitude 2.8 and will become visible in our North Carolina pre-dawn sky. Through the rest of May until June 10 we should easily see (magnitude 5) Swan in the early evening northern sky as it moves toward Capella through Auriga. (See map below). Keep in mind that as Comet Swan moves towards our Sun, the solar wind will cause its tail to become brighter and longer and always pointing away from the Sun. Swan’s cape should present us with spectacular viewing, especially in binoculars and telescopes.