May Skies – Mars Rules & Meteors Abound !

The Planets
Venus & Mercury Are both lost to the glare of the morning and evening Sun respectively.
Mars: This is the “Month of Mars” with Mars coming to opposition on the 22nd and reaching its closest point to the earth at “just” 75 Million Km away on the 30th. If you ever wanted to see Mars and perhaps get a telescope, this will be the best time in the next 2 years. With all the focus on Mars over the past 2 years with the confirmation of transient liquid features on the surface, it is a great time to be looking at Mars.
Jupiter, always good when it is visible, does not disappoint this month either and has a close conjunction with the moon on the evening of the 15th.
Saturn is just a month away from opposition and at this time there is a noticeable increase in the brightness of the ring system with the sun almost directly behind the earth from a Saturnian perspective. It’s biggest moon Titan can even be seen with binoculars.
Uranus returns to the predawn sky in Pisces, but like Neptune is only visible with a telescope.
Neptune rises around 1am & can be found just 0.5 deg from the 4th magnitude star Lambda Aqurii  in Aquarius & thanks to it’s retrograde motion remains in that position for the next 3 months. If that does not make it easy to find, I don’t know what will !
The Saturnian Moons
Saturn’s visible moons Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Titan & Iapetus form some
interesting patterns around Saturn on the 4th, 13th, 18th, 26th & 30th
Meteor Showers
This month the major Meteor Shower, the Eta Aquarius will grace our morning skies peaking on and around the 5th with as many as 30 meteors per hour. These meteors are the dusty debris of that most famous comet, Hayley. They are noted for their distinct yellowish colour, often leaving persistent streaks (trains) across the sky. Look into the eastern sky from 3am in the morning local time.
Observing Equipment Advice
This is what we suggest you consider when setting yourself up to view the many delights of the night sky.
Naked Eye Viewing: This is the best way to see Meteor Showers, the board sweep of the Milky Way & track satellites across the night sky. Choose as dark site and a comfortable reclining position. This is FREE and just takes a bit of effort.
Big Star clusters: we are talking about groupings of stars that are beyond a fuzzy blob, these are things like the clouds of Magellan, the Pleiades & a few selected nebulous regions. These are best seen with a pair of 7x to 10x Magnification binoculars with a 50mm lens. Prices start from around $100.
Fuzzy Blobs: You can’t make out what they are but you think they might be interesting ? These are best seen with a wide field telescope such as the Kson 102mm Tabletop, starting price is $240. These scopes gives you a nice contrast against the blackness of space.
The Invisible: Galaxies, faint nebula & planetary details, this is where scopes 6” in aperture and  above come into play, these start at around $400 and how big you go is only limited by portability and budget (The biggest have 48” or 1.2m mirrors !)

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