Posted by on May 1, 2016 in Main |

The transit of Mercury

The only winter constellations still left on view are Auriga and Gemini you can locate then very low in the west.
The Plough is overhead which means that Cassiopeia is at its lowest, but still well above the northern horizon. Arcturus in Bootes and Spica in Virgo are almost due south. They can be found by following the curve of the handle of the Plough around and down. First you will reach the bright orange star Arcturus in Bootes continue the curve and you will reach the bright white star Spica in Virgo, low down in the sky.

The 9th of this month, Mercury will transit across the face of the Sun and will be seen a dark spot slowly moving across the face of the Sun. It is very important never to stare at the sun, or to use binoculars or telescopes directly to view the sun, as this will cause blindness. The transit starts 12.12pm and finishes at 7.42pm.

The last time an entire transit of Mercury was visible from Britain was in May 2003, and the next one will be in May 2049.

Jupiter still dominates the night sky. It is the bright white star like object high in the sky in the south. As soon as it gets dark you can see Jupiter just to the left of Regulus in Leo. At the moment Jupiter acts as a good guide to finding Regulus.

Mars and Saturn are present and by mid-month they will be visible very low in the south east.

This month sees the return of the Eta Aquarids. The shower reaches its peak on May 6th and 7th. However, for people living in Britain, these meteors are seen very low in the sky and only for an hour or so before the Sun rises. Only a few can be expected to be seen. The Eta Aquarids are the remains of the famous Halley’s comet.

On 14th of this month, around 11pm, the Moon will be to the lower right of Jupiter.
On the 15th of May, around 11pm, the Moon will be to the lower left of Jupiter.

Phases of the Moon this month are:-
New Moon 6th,
First Quarter 13th,
Full Moon 21st,
Last Quarter 29th