May, 2016 Programs

#1 —  THE SPRING CONSTELLATIONS

Locate the mythical figures in the current sky above Lincoln, and learn their legends.  Then, weather permitting, take a guided tour of the sky on the terrace behind the observatory with one of our volunteers who will show you how to locate the important stars and objects in the current night sky.  Running time:  19 minutes.

#2 — EXPLORE MARS

As the red planet enters our evening sky, we examine the latest scientific discoveries from the Martian surface (rovers Opportunity and Curiosity), and from orbit above the planet (MRO – Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and MAVEN – Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission).  Running time:  23 minutes.

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May Objects in the Hyde Telescopes

Planets:   Mars joins Jupiter in the evening sky this month.  Mars reaches its closest point to Earth on May 30, and gets higher in the sky with each passing night.  So it is about as large as it ever appears in a telescope, it is about as bright as it ever gets, and we are looking at it through less of the Earth’s jittery atmosphere.  This makes surface features easier to see.  On the downside, it is dust storm season on Mars.  Storms can blow up unexpectedly and obscure large parts of the planet.  So, you never know what you might see!  Jupiter remains a reliable telescopic sight with its churning atmosphere and four Galilean moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

The Moon will be seen best in telescopes after its New phase on the 6th.   The optimum time to view the moon in the Hyde telescopes this month will be on the nights of May 7 (a very thin crescent in the west just after sunset) and the 14th (just after First Quarter on the 13th).  Full moon occurs on May 21,  which means the moon will rise right at sunset that night, so we will certainly train a telescope on it.  However, be forewarned:  looking through a telescope at the moon around its full phase can be disappointing because (1) it is almost blindingly bright and (2) the sun is shining directly down on the lunar surface.  That means no shadows, but you really need the mountains and craters to cast shadows, so you can pick out surface details.   The moon will rise after the observatory closes on the night of May 28.

Deep sky objects (stars, galaxies and nebulae) will be on full display in May.