Sky Report, April - May 2019
Sky Report by Ted Gruber
While most of the planet action takes place in the morning skies this month, Mars (magnitude 1.6) is visible high in the western sky as darkness falls. On May 6, the red planet gives the constellation Taurus the bull a third horn when it appears halfway between the stars Elnath and the fainter Zeta Tauri that form the two horns of Taurus. Mars remains visible until setting in the west-northwest between 11:00pm and midnight.
On May 10, the moon passes through the Beehive star cluster (M44).
Jupiter (magnitude -2.4), Saturn (0.5), and Venus (-3.9) continue to dominate the pre-dawn sky. Jupiter now rises around 1:00am in the southeast, followed by Saturn about two hours later. Venus rises in the east just before 6:00am. By mid-May, Jupiter and Saturn each rise about two hours earlier, and Venus about one hour earlier. The moon passes 1.6° north of Jupiter the morning of April 23.
Full (4/19), last (4/26), new (5/4), first (5/11), full (5/18), last (5/26).
The Lyrids are active from April 14 to 30, peaking the night of April 22-23, with a predicted rate of 18 meteors per hour at the peak. Unfortunately, the nearly full moon that night will drown out many of the fainter meteors.
The Eta Aquarids are active from April 19 to May 28. This shower peaks in the early morning hours of May 6 and has a predicted rate of 40 meteors per hour at the peak. The meteors result from the Earth passing through the debris trail left by Halley’s Comet as it orbits the sun.
Messier of the Month – M48
M48 is a magnitude 5.5 open cluster in the constellation Hydra. It is about 1,500 light years distant, contains over 400 stars, and has an estimated age of 300-400 million years. The cluster is easily seen through binoculars, and even smaller telescopes resolve about 50 stars. M48 is best viewed at lower magnifications.
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