May 24, 2022: The moon dances near bright Jupiter and dimmer Mars in the east-southeast before sunrise. Venus and Saturn are nearby. During the evening, look into intergalactic space.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:23 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:13 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
The crescent moon nudges close to bright Jupiter and Mars this morning in the east-southeast before sunrise. Step outside about 45 minutes before sunup to find the crescent moon, 33% illuminated, about 20° up in the east-southeast.
The lunar crescent is 9.7° to the lower right of Jupiter. Look carefully for Mars, 2.9° to the right of the Jovian Giant and 6.9° to the upper left of the moon.
This trio is too far apart to fit into the same binocular field. Either Jupiter and Mars fit into the binocular’s view or observe Mars and the lunar crescent. Tomorrow morning, the three fit tightly into the same field of view. The three do not appear this close together again until November 2, 2026.
The Red Planet is slowly closing in for a conjunction with Jupiter in five mornings.
Watch the moon pass the Jupiter – Mars grouping and move toward Venus during the next few mornings. The Morning Star continues to widen its gap to Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn.
This morning Venus, 9° up in the east, is 22.6° to the lower left of Jupiter and 59.9° from Saturn. The Ringed Wonder is nearly 30° up in the south-southeast at this hour.
The star Fomalhaut, after its first morning appearance, is becoming easier to see each morning. It is over 7° up in the southeast and to the lower left of Saturn. Additionally, the star Capella is nearly 5° above the north-northeast horizon.
Mercury is heading toward the morning sky for an appearance with the other four bright planets, along with dimmer Uranus and Neptune, and the classic ninth planet Pluto, later next month.
Step outside after the end of twilight without the moon in the sky, about two hours after sundown during late May. Besides Arcturus and Spica, the southern region of the sky is without bright stars. At this season, we are looking into the depths of intergalactic space. If you look at a star map, the region above Spica through Coma Berenices and nearly to the Big Dipper might be labelled “The Realm of the Galaxies,” or on older maps “The Field of Nebulae.” Today is region is known as the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies.
This region of deep space has thousands of galaxies, enormous collections of stars in spiral patterns or spherical shapes. Perhaps 100 are visible through the neighborhood sky watcher’s telescope.
These islands have billions of stars and, yet to be observed, planets, thousands of galaxies with billions of stars and planets. All of them are rushing away from our Milky Way galaxy, thought to be from the big bang that flung the gasses on a flight through an expanding space that condensed into the galaxies observable through telescopes.
Galaxies tend to bunch together in clusters and clusters into galactic super clusters. From current measurements, the Virgo cluster’s galaxies are in the 50 million-light-year range.
Finding the distance depends on the Hubble Constant, the value that states the speed the universe is expanding. The value H0 is the slope of the line, like we calculated in the first-year algebra course, for the speed of galaxies away from us and their distances. The constant has been recalculated many times from myriads of observations.
The Hubble constant is used to calculate the distances to distant galaxies and the age of the universe. Each time the news media announces a new age of the universe, another astronomical research group has remeasured the Hubble constant and presented their findings.
While our eyes cannot see those galaxies in the Virgo Group without the help of the world’s largest telescopes, we can wonder about what might be out there beyond our solar system and our Milky Way galaxy.
- 2023, October 20: Jupiter’s Double Shadows, Mercury at Superior ConjunctionOctober 20: After midnight, Jupiter’s moons’ shadows dance across the cloud tops. Mercury is at superior conjunction.
- 2023, October 19: Poured Moon, See Planet UranusOctober 19: Sagittarius seems to pour the moon into the sky this evening. Find Uranus with a binocular.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.
- 2023, October 17: Scorpion MoonOctober 17, 2023: The crescent moon is with Scorpius during evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter gleam from the predawn sky.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.