Sky Lights ~ Taurus
April 20 - May 21, 2011
Saturn is our only evening planet. It can be seen at nightfall, in the southeast, about halfway to the zenith. The Lord of the Rings moves westward all night long until it sets just before dawn, around 5:30am in the beginning of Taurus and at 4:00am by its end. The planet's yellowish glow is eye-catching above (west of) bluish Spica. Look for the large triangle formed by Saturn, Spica and golden Arcturus. Learn more about Saturn and Astronomy Day in the 5/7 Star Gazer 5min-Video. Use the Big Dipper to locate Saturn (see Arcturus below for details). 5/13 the waxing Gibbous Moon can be seen near Saturn and 5/14 near Spica. 5/13 9pm Map ~ 5/14 Map Saturn's rings are opening, revealing more and more of their northern face. The planet's ring tilt is 8º in May. Generate images of Saturn's ring tilt as seen from Earth with the Solar System Simulator
Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter are a morning delight, dancing together before dawn during the first 3 weeks of May. Venus and Jupiter, by far the brightest, are easily seen with the unaided eye. Binoculars and/or telescope bring out the dimmer, twilit Mars and Mercury. You'll need a clear horizon to view these low lying planets. Animation Observers further south enjoy a higher, better view of dawn's line-up than those further north. Venus at magnitude -3.8 is breathtaking, though sinking toward the Sun. 4/30 a slim waning Crescent Moon lies above Venus and 5/1 rises with the gorgeious planet. 4/30 Dawn Map ~ 5/1 5:45am Map Mercury gets brighter (magnitude 0.8 to magnitude 0.1) as the weeks unfold. It is at greatest elongation, furthest from the rising Sun 5/7, however it sinks back toward the horizon after this date. Jupiter at magnitude -2.1 rises higher each morning, as it pulls away from Mars on its way toward Venus. 5/11 Jupiter and Venus are at their closest from our perspective. 5/11 5:30am Map ~ 5/11 Dawn Map Mars at magnitude 1.3 and located close to the horizon won't be easily seen until mid-May, 30 minutes before sunrise. 5/22-23 use Jupiter to find the pairing of Venus and Mars in dawn's early light. 5/22 Dawn Map/Text ~ 5/23 5:15am Map
Sirius the brightest star in the heavens can be seen the southwest as the sky darkens. Sirius sets in the beginning of Taurus around 10:45pm and by its end at 9:15pm.
Arcturus is the bright star high in the east at sunset. Use the handle of the Big Dipper to arc down to Arcturus from there spike down to Spica in the south. Helpful Image In 2011 yellowish Saturn lies above (west of) bluish Spica; both are located south of golden Arcturus. Look for the large triangle formed by these 3 colorful celestial bodies. Use this early April Map to see how the triangle relates to blue-white Regulus of Leo the Lion. The westward movement of Arcturus and the Big Dipper can be observed until sunrise. Big Dipper Navigation Notice the seasonal position of the Big Dipper's bowl.
Vega is the very bright star rising above the northeast horizon after sunset.