Southern Cross Stargazer for May 18-24, 2014


At dusk Mercury climbs about 10 degrees above the northwestern horizon. Aim binoculars/telescopes from an unused school athletic field. Mercury sets by mid-evening. Bright Jupiter lies below the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux, west of Zenith. The dim Beehive star cluster shimmers to the left of the Twins.

Fiery Mars glows in Virgo in the east and is highest in the south by 1 a.m. The warrior planet sets in the west before dawn. Spica, in Virgo, follows Mars. Corvus, the Crow, flies across the south. The stunning star cluster Omega Centauri shimmers low in the south below Corvus.

By nightfall, silver Saturn rises in the east-southeast in Libra, and is highest in the south by 1 a.m. Saturn’s rings tilt 22 degrees. Telescopes reveal the separation between the bands of sunlit ice and rocks that encircle the planet.

Brilliant blue Sirius sparkles in the southwest in Orion’s Big Dog. Orion, the Hunter, slides onto the western horizon. Procyon, the Little Dog, trots after Orion. Capella guides Auriga, the Charioteer, lower in the northwest. Leo, the Lion, crawls westward. The Big Dipper hangs in the north. Its bowl always faces Polaris, the North Star. Aim binoculars to view the colorful double star in the curve of the Dipper’s handle. Bright Arcturus, the Herdsman, sparkles in the east. About 10 p.m. Hercules leads Vega, in Lyra the Harp, and the vast Summer Triangle higher in the northeast. Cygnus, the Swan, soars within the Triangle. Huge Scorpius climbs higher in the southeast. Ruddy Antares, the heart, beats in the Scorpion's torso.


By 4 a.m., dim Neptune rises in Aquarius in the southeast. About 5:30 a.m., brilliant Venus, the Morning Star, glows in the east. Blue-green Uranus lies about 2 degrees left of Venus. Capricornus, the Sea Goat, wanders into the south. The Sagittarian Teapot shimmers in the south — toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Scorpius crawls into the southwest. Westbound Hercules leads Vega and the Summer Triangle overhead. Queen Cassiopeia awakens low in the north-northeast. Pegasus, the Winged Horse, lifts higher in the east. Last Quarter Moon occurs 8:59 a.m.


A meteor shower may be most active from 3 to 4 a.m. as Earth cruises through the dust tail of Comet Linear. About 5:30 a.m. the waning moon leads Venus and Uranus higher in the east. By nightfall, Mercury reaches its highest altitude — 23 degrees above the northwestern horizon.

Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375,