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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2022 May 21 – May 28

By 10 pm the zigzag constellation of Draco the Dragon is halfway up the northern sky to the right of the Little Dipper. Draco’s tail is a line of stars between the Big and Little Dippers. One of those stars is Thuban, which lies between the bowl of the Little Dipper and the middle of the Big Dipper’s handle. About 5000 years ago, when the Egyptian pyramids were built, Thuban was the North Star and entrances to the pyramids were designed with a descending passageway aligned to this star.  Coincidentally, the inner two stars of the Big Dipper’s bowl point to Thuban, just as the outer pair points toward Polaris.

From the tail, Draco arcs around the bowl of the Little Dipper and then curves back toward Hercules, with its head being a quadrilateral of stars by the strongman’s foot. The two brightest stars in Draco’s head, Eltanin and Rastaban, are its eyes. They are the brightest and third brightest of the constellation. The faintest of the four is a treat in binoculars, showing matching white stars that resemble headlights or cat eyes. In mythology, the dragon was one of the Titans, rivals of the Olympians. In one of their battles, Athena slung the dragon high into the northern sky. Writhing to right itself, it struck against the northern sky and froze in that position.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:40 am and sunset will occur at 8:51 pm, giving 15 hours, 11 minutes of daylight (5:48 am and 8:54 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:34 am and set at 8:59 pm, giving 15 hours, 25 minutes of daylight (5:42 am and 9:01 pm in Saint John).

The Moon reaches third quarter near Saturn on Sunday, and then passes below Mars and Jupiter over Tuesday and Wednesday and Venus on Friday. Mars is within a binocular view of Jupiter all week, closing in for a conjunction with the giant planet next weekend. Venus and Saturn bracket the line-up to the east and west, respectively. Mercury is at inferior conjunction this Saturday, joining the morning line dance of planets in mid-June.

On Sunday evening at 8 pm, tune in to the Sunday Night Astronomy Show via the Facebook page or YouTube channel of Astronomy by the Bay.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2022 May 14 – May 21

The Moon takes centre stage this week with perhaps the most significant stargazing event of the year, all the stages of a total lunar eclipse from Sunday evening into early Monday. Although the Moon starts slipping into Earth’s dark shadow at 11:27 pm, look for subtle gray shading on the lunar surface beginning 30 minutes sooner. This is the penumbra, a lesser shadow created when Earth partly covers the Sun as seen from the Moon. Between 11:27 and 12:29 am the dark umbra will creep across the lunar surface toward totality. Note that the umbra appears on the left side, which indicates the Moon is moving eastward in its orbit rather than the westward motion we see as our planet rotates. Also, note the curvature of the shadow. The Greeks noticed the curvature more than two millennia ago and correctly assumed it was because the Earth is spherical. Watch for more stars to appear as totality approaches and the sky darkens.

Totality lasts for about 85 minutes, ending at 1:54 am. The Moon could take on a red or orange hue before and during totality, caused by our atmosphere acting like a prism and bending the red part of the sunlight moonward. It could also appear darker than usual if volcanic dust from the Hunga Tonga eruption in January remains high in the atmosphere. You might also note that the bottom of the Moon is brighter than the top. The Moon passes just below the centre of Earth’s shadow during this eclipse, so the lower portion is farther from the deepest and darkest part of the umbra. For an hour after totality you get to watch the partial phase play out in reverse, followed by the fading of the penumbra.

Our next lunar eclipse will occur on the morning of November 8, with the Moon setting shortly after the end of totality. After that we will have to wait until March 14, 2025 to see the shady Moon.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:47 am and sunset will occur at 8:43 pm, giving 14 hours, 56 minutes of daylight (5:55 am and 8:46 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:40 am and set at 8:51 pm, giving 15 hours, 11 minutes of daylight (5:48 am and 8:54 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full and near the middle of Earth’s shadow very early on Monday. Mercury is moving sunward rapidly on its way to inferior conjunction next Saturday. Mars passes a moon-width below Neptune on Wednesday morning but the low altitude or twilight will make this a difficult sighting in a telescope. As Mars closes the gap to Jupiter, Venus races eastward against the stars to widen the spread of the four morning planets. Early rising Saturn is starting to look lonely far to their west.

On Sunday evening at 8 pm, tune in to the Sunday Night Astronomy Show via the Facebook page or YouTube channel of Astronomy by the Bay.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

 

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Photos of the Month – Year 2020

Click on any image to view a larger version. While viewing the larger version, click on the image to show/hide the description. You may also click on the left/right arrows to go to the previous/next image.

All images are copyright of their respective authors. You may not use or redistribute these images without their permission.

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Photos of the Month – Year 2019

[Featured image above by François Thériault]

Click on any image to view a larger version. While viewing the larger version, click on the image to show/hide the description. You may also click on the left/right arrows to go to the previous/next image.

All images are copyright of their respective authors. You may not use or redistribute these images without their permission.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

 

November

December


 

 


Links to contributors’ photo galleries:

If you are a RASC-NB member, and have not received instructions via email about how to submit your photos, please contact the webmaster here (choose Concerning: Website).

If you contributed photos and would like us to publish a link to your photo gallery, please contact the webmaster.

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