By nightfall Spica follows fiery Mars, in Virgo, higher in the east. Telescopes reveal the white ice cap shrinking in the Martian summer and subtle dark details on the iron-rich red Martian desert. Binoculars enhance the planet’s bright color. Mars sets in the west about dawn and will remain bright for a few weeks.
Corvus, the Crow, flies across the southeast. Ruddy Arcturus, the Herdsman, rises in the northeast. Bright Jupiter drifts west of Zenith in Gemini and sets in the northwest about midnight. The dim Beehive star cluster in Cancer, the Crab, follows the Gemini Twins westward. Leo, the Lion, crawls overhead.
The Big Dipper hangs in the north. Its bowl always faces Polaris, North Star. The tip of the Little Dipper’s handle is Polaris. Capella guides Auriga, the Charioteer, across the northwest. The delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades cluster) lead Taurus, the Bull, onto the western horizon. In the southwest, Orion, the Hunter, takes aim at the Bull. Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius, sparkles in Orion’s Big Dog in the southwest. The Pups trot behind the Big Dog. Around 10 p.m., silver Saturn brightens in the southeast in Libra. Saturn’s icy rings open at a wide angle.
By 11:15 p.m. telescopes reveal Jupiter’s closest moons aligned vertically: Europa (top) Io (middle) and Callisto (bottom). Ganymede is not in the group. The tiny black dot on Jupiter’s surface is Europa’s shadow.
Last Quarter Moon occurs 3:52 a.m. Moonrise 2 a.m.
The Lyrid Meteor Shower may reach maximum activity between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. Twenty Lyrids per/hour may be visible radiating from Lyra, the Harp, near Vega overhead.
Hercules brings Vega and the vast Summer Triangle to the Zenith. Celestial “birds” migrate across the Spring predawn sky: Corvus, the Crow glides toward the southwestern horizon. Aquila, the Eagle, (southern point star in the Triangle) cruises high across the south. Cygnus, the Swan, soars within the Triangle.
Saturn leads huge Scorpius into the southwest. Bright Antares, red heart, beats in the Scorpion's torso. The Sagittarian Teapot shimmers in the south. Pegasus, Winged Horse, rises in the east. By 5:30 a.m. brilliant Venus, Morning Star, glows in the southeast. The waning moon floats above Capricornus, Sea Goat.
At dawn, a thin crescent moon rises in the southeast near Venus and Neptune in Aquarius.
Southern Cross Astros MarsWatch will be 8-10:30 p.m. at MiamiDade Bill Sadowski Park, Southwest 176th Street at 79th Avenue, a half mile west of Old Cutler Road in Palmetto Bay. No lights, litter, alcohol or pets in the park. Call 305-661-1375 to reserve groups exceeding 12.
Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org