This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
The planets Jupiter and Venus are visible in the west-northwest sky starting about 30 minutes after sunset. The higher object is Jupiter, and the lower, brighter object is Venus. This week, the apparent distance between the planets closes from 15 degrees to 6 degrees. The planet Mercury will appear 2 degrees to the lower right of Venus on the 22nd, setting the stage for an interesting grouping of these three planets next week.
As the sky darkens, the planet Saturn, in Virgo the Maiden, will become noticeable in the southeast in the part of the sky opposite of Jupiter and Venus. Saturn is visible most of the night, and is highest in the south at 11:30 p.m. This is a great time to see the rings of the planet and several of its moons through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes.
The moon’s appearance waxes from crescent to gibbous this week, appearing in first quarter phase on Friday the 17th. The lighting is ideal for evening observations of the nightly changes in the appearance of craters, mountains and shadows along the sunrise terminator, the dividing line of darkness and light on the moon’s disk. Moonset occurs about 35 minutes later each night, changing from 11:17 p.m. to 2:46 a.m. between the 15th and the 22nd.
The best of several morning appearances of the International Space Station over Los Angeles should occur before dawn on Saturday, May 18. The ISS should emerge from earth’s shadow high in the southwest at 4:17 a.m. and cross nearly overhead before reaching the northeast horizon three minutes later. The giant satellite, now with an international crew of three astronauts, will outshine any other object in the sky at that time.
In addition to the free views of the sky that we provide day and night (until 9:30 p.m.) when weather permits except for Mondays, Griffith Observatory also hosts public star parties nearly every month. Along with the Observatory telescopes, dozens of telescopes from the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and The Planetary Society are also set up on the Observatory’s front lawn for free observation, from 2:00 p.m. until closing. The star party provides a great chance to observe the sun, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, the moon, and a variety of deep-sky objects. The star party also provides a chance to learn about telescopes and the hobby of amateur astronomy. The public star party for May is on Saturday the 18th. Please see our homepage for notices about street work below the Observatory on the 18th that could affect your trip here.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.