This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through May 3rd, 2017. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
Jupiter is the brilliant planet currently glowing in the east-southeast starting shortly after sunset. Located against the starry backdrop of the constellation Virgo the Maiden, Jupiter is highest and due south at about 11:15 p.m., then it descends to the western horizon by the start of dawn. Through a telescope the largest four of Jupiter’s many moons and the planet’s banded cloud patterns can be observed. Jupiter’s giant oval storm, the Great Red Spot, will face observers in Los Angeles at 9:00 p.m. on April 26th, 28th, 30th, and May 3rd. Jupiter is one of the objects currently featured through Griffith Observatory’s public telescopes.
The waxing moon lights the evening sky for a longer period night after night. It sets at 8:03 p.m. on the 26th and at 2:02 a.m. on May 3rd. The moon’s phase is crescent on the nights before the 2nd, when it becomes first quarter. It is gibbous starting on the 3rd. Look for the orange planet Mars, currently at its maximum distance from us, and therefore appearing only moderately bright, to the upper right of the moon on Thursday, April 27.
The planet Saturn, in the constellation Sagittarius the Archer, resembles a bright golden star. It is highest in the south at about 4:00 a.m. Saturn’s rings are beautiful through nearly any telescope. Saturn will be well placed to view in the evening sky during the summer.
The brightest planet, Venus, blazes in the eastern sky during the dawn. Venus currently appears crescent through a telescope.
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 the schedule. The next free 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 6th.
Follow the Sky Report on Twitter for updates of astronomy and space-related events.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.