This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
Look to the west, 30 minutes after sunset, to see the two brightest planets. Jupiter is the higher of the two, 20 degrees above the western horizon, while Venus, deep in the twilight glow, is only 5 degrees high in the west-northwest–to the lower right of Jupiter. The two planets will appear closer to each other day by day.
Golden planet Saturn, crossing the border from Libra the Scales to Virgo the Maiden on the 13th, appears low in the southeast, to the lower left of Virgo’s bright star Spica as darkness falls, and is visible nearly all night long. The best time to observe Saturn is when it is highest above the horizon, when it transits 45 degrees high in the south, at 11:45 p.m. Saturn sets in the west southwest during dawn. A telescope is needed to see Saturn’s spectacular system of rings, now tilted 18 degrees in our direction. Several of the moons of Saturn can also be seen, appearing like stars scattered around the planet.
The moon is new on the afternoon of Thursday the 9th, causing an annular solar eclipse–unseen from Los Angeles–visible only along a narrow path stretching across parts of Australia, Indonesia, and the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The waxing crescent moon emerges into the evening sky on Thursday night, first appearing two degrees to the lower left of Venus. It is between Venus and Jupiter on Friday, and to the upper left of Jupiter on Saturday. By Tuesday the 14th, the moon will be visible until it sets at 11:40 p.m., P.D.T.
Comet Lemmon C/2012 F6 has moved into the morning sky after putting on a good show in the Southern Hemisphere earlier this year. The comet is visible through binoculars, slowly fading from 6th to 7th magnitude this month. Observed from rural dark sky sites, the comet is easy to locate, close to the eastern (lower) side of the Great Square of Pegasus shortly before dawn. A finder map is provided on our special comet Lemmon webpage.
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 Tuesday-Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star party held by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place at the Observatory on Saturday, May 18 from 2:00-9:30 p.m.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.