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Tuesday 21 April 2015  •   3 Hawthorn Moon 2015

Viewing the night sky in Hawthorn Moon 2015

19 April - 17 May 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 4 May, 04:42 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Hawthorn Moon 2015

Venus brightens more in the evening sky. The moon passes south of it on 21 April. On 7 May Mercury reaches 21°E of the sun in the evening sky. A terrible view from southern parts of the Earth, but from the north it is quite a good chance to see the elusive inner planet. Look to the WNW soon after sunset. The lovely bright Venus will be the first to appear. As the sky darkens, look for Mercury between Venus and the sunset. You may also begin to see the bright stars of Taurus and Orion south of Venus. Further round, away from the sunset, is the bright Jupiter, between the recognisable stars of Leo and Gemini. It sets soon after midnight. The two bright planets are a lovely sight in the evening sky. Watch for them coming closer over the next couple of months. Saturn is brightening as it approaches opposition early next month, its rings and moons a delight through a telescope. It rises during the evening to the north of Scorpius’ front stars, and significantly brighter than the nearby red star Antares. On 15 May, the old moon occults Uranus in daylight over central South America and Africa. Look out for the Lyrid meteors on 21/22 April, a good display with the moon out of the way, and the Eta Aquarid meteors on 5/6 May, though the just past full moon that will drown out many of the latter.

The month ahead: Heather Moon 2015

18 May - 16 June 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 2 June, 17:19 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Heather Moon 2015

Venus and Jupiter are prominent in the evening sky, with Venus being much brighter, but also nearer the sun. The moon is in the sky with them on the evenings of 21-24 May. The two planets come closer to each other during the month, and by 16 June, they are a gorgeous sight together in the west after sunset. Before that, on 1 June, Venus lines up nicely with Castor and Pollux, and then Venus reaches its greatest elongation, 45.4° east of the sun, on 6 June. Saturn comes to opposition on 23 May. Opposition is when an outer planet is opposite the sun in the sky, as seen from Earth: the ?full moon? or midnight position, if you like. It is also the approximate time when it is nearest to Earth. Saturn rises at sunset and sets at sunrise, and shines brightly all night on the borders of Scorpius and Libra. 1340 million kilometres or 75 light minutes is its distance from us at its closest pass. Its rings well tilted and to give a magnificent view from the Earth; do try to look through binoculars or a telescope to see them. See if you can spot its bright moons Titan and Rhea, as well as maybe Tethys and Dione. The nearly full moon is nearby on the night of 1/2 June. The old moon occults Uranus before sunrise on 12 June over SE Australia and over New Zealand and the South Pacific in daylight. On 15 June, the very old crescent occults Mercury in daylight over SE Asia and the nearby Pacific.

William Morris
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