This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Here is what’s happening in the skies of southern California:
Brilliant planet Jupiter, in Gemini the Twins, is the first object visible as twilight deepens, high in the sky and to the west of the zenith. Jupiter sets in the west-northwest at 1:00 a.m. Jupiter’s famous oval storm, the Great Red Spot, can be seen through astronomical telescopes from the west coast on April 24th, 26th, and 29th.
The orange planet Mars, in Virgo the Maiden, is in prime position for telescopic early-evening observation this week. Mars is the brightest object visible in the southeast when darkness falls. Mars is highest in the south at 11:00 p.m., and is available for telescopic scrutiny as it moves into the southwest until about 2:00 a.m., after which time the thickness of our air near the horizon will likely blur the image. This week, a telescope can be used to examine the Martian dark markings spanning from Mare Acidalium to Syrtis Major.
The ringed planet Saturn appears as a bright golden star in Libra the Scales, and is visible in the southeast after rising at 8:30 p.m. Saturn transits in the south at 1:45 a.m. A telescope is needed to see Saturn’s spectacular rings.
Venus, the brightest planet, rises in the east about two hours before sunrise. At sunrise, Venus can still be glimpsed, 22 degrees above the horizon.
The waning crescent moon passes Venus on the 25th and is visible before sunrise until the 26th. The moon is new on the 28th, and will reappear as a waxing crescent in the evening sky on Wednesday the 30th.
The International Space Station will make two early-evening passes over Los Angeles this week. On Wednesday the 23rd, the ISS will appear above the northwest horizon at 8:47 p.m. It will outshine Jupiter when it reaches its highest point, 62 degrees above the northeast horizon, at 8:51 p.m. A minute later it will slip into earth’s shadow while still 41 degrees high in the east-southeast. On Saturday the 26th, the ISS will appear in the northwest at 7:57 p.m. It reaches its highest point, 76 degrees above the southwest horizon at 8:01 p.m., and will set in the southeast three minutes later.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, May 3.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.