SJAA Ephemeris May 2003 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next

The shallow sky

Good news and bad news

Akkana Peck


I've got some good news and some bad news for the May shallow sky.

The good news: Mercury will transit the sun on May 7.

The bad news: we won't see it from here.

This transit is visible at sunrise from the east coast of North America, at sunset from Alaska, but to see it high in the sky you have to go to Eurasia or Africa.

I know I shouldn't complain, after we got such a good view of the transit in 1999, but that was so much fun that I'm tempted to schedule a trip to see this one. We found out that a small travel scope worked fine. Or wait 'til November 2006, when another Mercury transit will be visible from here. The transit of Venus next year (June 2004) has almost exactly the same visibility as this month's Mercury transit (that certainly sounds worth a trip!) but for the June 2012 Venus transit, San Jose gets a sunset view (sounds like a spectacular photo opportunity!)

More good news: there's still time to catch Jupiter in its current pass! It's still observable in the western sky during early evening. Try setting up right around sunset: sometimes the sky is extremely steady for an hour or so after sunset, and Jupiter is plenty bright enough to show detail even in a twilight sky.

Bad news: Saturn is going ... going ... not quite gone; you can still catch it low in the sunset twilight for part of the month. Never fear; the rings will still be fairly wide open when it returns this fall.

Mars rises around 1:00 a.m., and is gradually drawing closer to us, but it's still too far away to show much detail yet. But just wait a few months! Meanwhile, it's hanging out with Neptune in Capricornus, while Uranus tags a bit behind them in Aquarius.

Venus rises in the morning about an hour before the sun, and will be difficult to catch.


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