Dave Leake's preview of 2019 sky events can be found here.
For: April 22-28
Later this week you can help build a global light pollution map. It’s simple! From April 25 to May 5, go outside and find the constellation Leo. It is located in the south as the sky darkens about 2/3 of the way from the horizon to straight up. It will appear like a backwards question mark with the star Regulus as the dot in the question mark. How many stars of Leo can you see? Go to the “Globe at Night” web site (www.globeatnight.org) and find the charts for Leo. Which chart best matches what you see from your location? You can report your data on the web site. You can submit more than one observation from different locations.
For: April 29 – May 5
Last week we introduced you to Leo, the Lion. If you can find Leo again tonight, look farther west for the twin stars Pollux and Castor, marking the heads of the Gemini Twins. Take your binoculars and trace a line from these two stars back to Leo, then go back half this distance and a bit below the line and peer into the faint stars of Cancer, the Crab. The showpiece here is the Beehive Star Cluster. It is said Galileo could see 40 stars in the cluster back in 1609. How many can you see? All together there are about 1000 stars in the group at nearly 600 light years away. Just added: Dr. Charles Gammie will be at the planetarium for a "special edition Kaler Science talk" on May 3, 7pm, to talk about the new black hole image from galaxy M87. Admission is $2 at the door.
For: May 6-12
Look west tomorrow night for a thin crescent Moon to the left of Mars. Mars is situated near the two “horn stars” of Taurus, the Bull. At Thursday’s CU Astronomical Society meeting, Bloomington’s Tim Stone will talk about amateur spectroscopy (7pm, planetarium). A big weekend coming up! We’ll take solar telescopes to “Market at the Square” Saturday morning at Lincoln Square from 8-noon and hopefully get a good, safe view of the Sun. Celebrate “Astronomy Day” at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum from 2-4pm. Then we will have a free open house at our observatory that night (cuas.org). Sunday we’ll host fun activities for the kids at the Champaign Public Library from noon-2pm for “Earth & Space Day.”
For: May 13-19
Tonight’s waxing gibbous Moon is situated beneath the hind quarters of Leo, the Lion. By Wednesday, the Moon is just above the bluish star Spica in the southeast. Not far above the Moon is galaxy Messier 87, the site of that black hole image released last month. Seeing M87 will require a telescope and dark skies. This Saturday, the planetarium welcomes noted children’s author Alice McGinty at 5:30pm to sign her latest book about the young lady who named Pluto. Sunday night, look westward just after sunset for the reddish planet Mars. Use binoculars as Mars sits just above Messier 35, a very rich star cluster nearly 2800 light years away in the constellation Gemini.
For: May 20-26
Tonight in the southeast, two hours after sunset, the waning gibbous Moon rises just after the planet Jupiter. Jupiter is growing in size through a telescope as our Earth closes the distance between the two planets. We will be closest to Jupiter early next month. Tomorrow, Mercury passes behind the Sun from our point of view. Though you won’t see it this week, it will appear in the evening sky at the end of the month ahead of a great showing in June. Though the planetarium is closed for the Memorial Day weekend, I’ll be at the Kennekuk County Park near Danville Friday night for a presentation on Dark Sky Parks. Join us!
For: May 27- June 2
All this week keen observers might glimpse the dwarf planet Ceres as it heads over the top of the head of Scorpius, the Scorpion, above and right of Jupiter. Go to heavens-above.com and click on “asteroids” for a chart. Use binoculars. This Saturday is the Dark Sky Celebration at the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. There will an unveiling of the Dark Sky Park sign, activities for the kids, food trucks, and (weather permitting), observing the sky with CU Astronomical Society telescopes. Come and learn about our summer sky, plus see the wonderful park upgrades. Check the ccfpd.org web site for details. We are hoping for a wonderful turn-out and an even better night sky!
See Dave Leake's "Prairie Skies" column in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette each Monday morning.