Every week, SkyNews publishes a list of key events in the Canadian sky in This Week’s Sky. This series gives you all the latest news in Solar System movements, including where the planets are in our sky and Moon phases. From eclipses to meteor showers, This Week’s Sky keeps you updated on the best in upcoming astronomical highlights.
Monday, May 30 – New Moon (at 11:30 UTC)
On Monday, May 30 at 7:30 a.m. EDT or 11:30 UTC, the Moon will officially reach its new Moon phase. At that time our natural satellite will be located in Taurus, and less than 1 degree north of the Sun. While at its new phase, the Moon is travelling between Earth and the Sun. Since sunlight can only shine on the far side of the Moon, and the Moon is in the same region of the sky as the Sun, it becomes completely hidden from view from anywhere on Earth for about a day. After the new Moon phase Earth’s celestial nightlight will return to shine as a crescent in the western evening sky.
Wednesday, June 1 – Crescent Moon near Ceres (after sunset)
When the pretty, young crescent Moon appears low in the western sky after sunset on Wednesday, June 1, it will be positioned a thumb’s width to the right (or 1.6 degrees to the celestial northwest) of the medium-bright star Mebsuta in Gemini. The dwarf planet (formerly asteroid) designated (1) Ceres will be located a similar distance to the Moon’s lower right. All three objects will share the view in binoculars (green circle), but clearly seeing Ceres’ magnitude 8.9 speck will require a backyard telescope. In the period surrounding 6:30 p.m. EDT or 22:30 GMT, the Moon will occult Ceres in daylight for observers in northern Polynesia, Hawaii, the continental United States, most of Mexico, the southern edge of Canada, the Caribbean and the northeastern edge of South America.
Thursday, June 2 – Mars outruns Jupiter (pre-dawn)
Several days after their very close conjunction, Mars and Jupiter will continue to shine together in the east-southeastern sky on the mornings surrounding Thursday, June 2. They’ll be flanked by extremely bright, white Venus to their lower left (or celestial northeast) and the fainter, yellowish dot of Saturn well off to their right (celestial southwest). The faster motion of reddish Mars will increase its separation east of 17 times brighter Jupiter each morning, but they’ll share the field of view in binoculars (green circle) until June 8. After the two planets clear the treetops after about 3 a.m. in your local time zone, they’ll remain visible until almost sunrise.
Friday, June 3 – Crescent Moon passes the Beehive cluster (evening)
On Friday night, June 3, the easterly orbital motion of the waxing crescent Moon will carry it past the huge open star cluster in Cancer known as the Beehive, Praesepe and Messier 44 in the western sky. After dusk in the Eastern Time zone, the Moon will be shining a slim palm’s width to the right (or 5 degrees to the celestial northwest) of the cluster. More westerly observers will see the Moon somewhat closer to the Beehive after dusk. The Moon and the cluster will be close enough to share the field of binoculars (green circle), but you’ll see more of the “bees” if you hide the Moon just outside of their field of view.
Sunday, June 5 – Saturn stands still (midnight to dawn)
On Sunday, June 5, the eastward prograde motion of the ringed planet Saturn through the background stars of eastern Capricornus will slow to a stop. After Sunday it will commence a westward retrograde loop that will last until late October (red path with dates:hour). On early June mornings the yellowish dot of Saturn will be visible with unaided eyes in the lower part of the southeastern sky from the time it clears the horizon around 1 a.m. local time until the dawn twilight hides it. Retrograde loops occur when Earth, on a faster orbit closer to the Sun, passes more distant planets “on the inside track,” making them appear to move backwards across the stars.
Chris Vaughan is a science writer, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you can follow him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He can also bring his Digital Starlab portable inflatable planetarium to your school or other daytime or evening event. Contact him through AstroGeo.ca to tour the Universe together.