This month marks the reappearance of Jupiter above the eastern horizon as it begins its next appearance and westward trip across the night sky. This appearance presents us with an observing challenge. On the morning of May 17th, Jupiter will be occulted by the waning crescent Moon as it passes in front of Jupiter. Jupiter disappears behind the leading edge of the Moon beginning at 5:52 a.m. MDT and reappears from behind the Moon at 6:28 a.m. MDT. As you plan your observation be aware that the timing of this event will vary depending on your latitude in North America.

Also, since this occultation occurs just before dawn, The glare preceding sunrise will present some observing challenges. A good pair of binoculars or a small to medium-sized telescope, with a wide-field eyepiece, will help you follow this event from beginning to end. Since the crescent Moon is only about 5% illuminated it will be a challenge to watch Jupiter disappear behind the brightly lit leading edge of the Moon and then reappear from behind dark edge of the Moon. Note that when this event begins, Jupiter will be only about 2 ½ degrees above the horizon and about 9 degrees above the horizon as the occultation concludes. Observers in the eastern time zones will greatly benefit from a telescopic view as sunrise approaches.

Venus, shining at magnitude -4.3, still reigns supreme in the early evening sky high above the western horizon. Mars is also visible in the early evening western sky after sunset. On the 15th, Mars can be found to the left of the twin Gemini stars, Pollux and Castor, with brilliant Venus just below. On the 29th, Mercury puts in an early morning appearance rising above the eastern horizon about 30 minutes before sunrise, shining at magnitude +.04. As June approaches, Mercury will be higher and brighter above the horizon reaching magnitude -0.1. Binoculars will definitely help you to find and observe Mercury.

The Moon will be full on the 5th, last quarter on the 12th, new on the 19th, and first quarter on the 27th. Looking west on the 23rd, just after dark, the crescent Moon can be found slightly to the right and about halfway between Venus and Mars.

There will not be a first Saturday star party at the Etscorn Campus Observatory this month.

Clear Skies!

Jon Spargo

New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club

May 2023

Jon Spargo, New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club