This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, May 8, 2013. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
The brightest planet, Venus, is above the west-northwest horizon up to 30 minutes after sunset this week, and will gradually become easy to see by month’s end. Venus has just emerged into the evening sky after passing around the far side of the sun. Through a telescope it appears as a tiny, fully lit disk.
Bright planet Jupiter, in Taurus the Bull, is in the western sky as darkness falls and sets in the west-northwest at about 10:15 p.m. Time is drawing short to enjoy evening telescopic observation of the motions of Jupiter’s cloud features and of its four largest moons.
Golden planet Saturn, in Libra the Scales, is now visible all night, making its appearance low in the southeast as darkness falls. Saturn is highest and straight south at 12:30 a.m., and sets in the west-southwest during the dawn. A telescope will show the northern face of the planet’s spectacular ring system, now tilted 18 degrees in our direction, as well as several of Saturn’s moons.
The moon changes phase from last quarter to waning crescent this week. The time of moonrise advances from 1:33 a.m. to 5:05 a.m. between the 2nd and the 8th.
The annual eta Aquarid meteor shower is expected to reach its maximum on the early morning of Sunday, May 5. The shower begins to be visible at 2:20 a.m., about two hours before dawn. The meteors will seem to stream from a point in the east-southeast near the “Water Jar” of Aquarius the Water Carrier. The light of the slender waning crescent moon, which will rise at 3:21 a.m., should not interfere with observations made from desert or mountain wilderness locations free from light pollution. The shower, which is considered major in the southern hemisphere, usually produces about 20 meteors per hour from the latitude of Los Angeles. This month’s eta Aquarid shower and the Orionid meteor shower in October are both produced by streams of particles shed by comet Halley centuries ago, still traveling along the comet’s orbit. Comet Halley, last seen in 1986, will return in 2061.
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 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 18.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at email@example.com.