Griffith Observatory Sky Report through May 17, 2017

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This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through May 17th, 2017. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.

The Moon is opposite the sun and full on the 10th. On successive evenings, moonrise will follow sunset by increasingly longer intervals. Moonrise changes from 7:42 p.m. on the 10th to 12:35 a.m. on the 17th. As a result, the moon begins to rise after darkness falls on Friday the 12th.

The planet Jupiter is gleaming high in the southeast sky starting after sunset. Now appearing against the backdrop of the constellation Virgo the Maiden, Jupiter crosses the meridian in the south at 10:20 p.m., then it gradually moves to the west and sets at about 4:00 a.m. Observers on the west coast can use a telescope to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot at 9:00 p.m. on the 10th, 12th and 15th. Jupiter and its four brightest moons are currently on display through Griffith Observatory’s public telescopes.

The planet Saturn appears bright, star-like, and golden in the constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent-Bearer. It rises in the east-southeast at about 10:20 p.m., and it is at its highest when it crosses the southern meridian at 3:00 a.m. The moon appears close to Saturn on the mornings of the 13th and 14th. The planet’s system of bright rings is magnificent through telescopes. They are now tilted by over 26 degrees from edge-on, nearly the maximum amount possible. Saturn will be visible during the early evening in the summer.

The brightest planet, Venus, rises above the eastern horizon at about 4:00 a.m. A telescope can be used to observe the planet’s phase, which currently is crescent. Starting on the 11th, look to the lower left of Venus to find the much fainter planet Mercury close to the eastern horizon at 5:25 a.m., the start of civil twilight.

As the moon moves out of the evening sky, observing conditions improve for comet 2015 V2 Johnson. This comet is above the horizon nearly all night and is passing through the constellation Boötes the Herdsman. It is expected to brighten from 8th to 7th magnitude or brighter this month, and should become bright enough to see through binoculars from dark-sky locations. A finder chart is available on the Sky and Telescope magazine Website.

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, June 3rd.

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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at