A friend reminded me of the value of looking up into the night sky and appreciating the wonders before our eyes. Sit comfortably during twilight in your garden. Forget everything in your busy life as you gaze upward some still May evening. Watch as the twinkling stars begin to show themselves against the darkening sky.
As the sky colour changes some of the brighter stars will pop into view. Towards the south at about 10 pm you will see two bright objects, the lower one is the star Spica. Just above it to the right the other object is the wonderful planet Saturn. Towards the South East , higher than Spica and Saturn the distantly orange star Arcturus shines brightly alone for the moment. To the East the bright star popping out at this time is Vega. Look back to Arcturus, see the shape Arcturus, Spica and Saturn make? a huge triangle over your garden. Spot the triangle , look at orange Arcturus then bring your eyes to the right and down to bright Spica , then gaze up to Saturn. Complete the triangle in your head , or with your finger or better still do a sketch. Arcturus is in the constellation Bootes, Spica is in the constellation Virgo and Saturn is a visitor passing through Virgo on its journey through our solar system. Vega is in the constellation Lyra
Slowly as minutes tick away look up directly above your head, you should see the four stars that make the dipper of the Big Dipper, aka the Plough, aka Ursa Major, aka The Great Bear aka the Saucepan. Three stars arc below these stars, they are the handle of the Saucepan, they arc back toward orange Arcturus. With your eye keep going down to Spica and the up to Saturn. Remember Saturn is a planet, it will move during the summer as it orbits the sun. So for the moment, if you look up to figure out this nice triangle with the stars and planet that make it you will be doing well.
Repeat your observation by eye of the twinkling early evening stars, it’s relaxing and rewarding. Become familiar with a few bright stars, they will become friends for life. Another evening you can fix your gaze on Vega to the East and drink in a whole other family of stars. There is no rush; you have your whole life to figure it out. Let curiosity lead you to the wonders above your garden.
If you live in Ireland and have never seen Saturn in a telescope , contact me and I will do my best to make sure you do. firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to Jane Houston Jones What’s Up for May 2011 to further your enjoyment of the sky.
Sketched May. 10, 2011 Location: Bray, Co Wicklow. Ireland . Details: PST 40 8mm TVP eyepiece = 50X Pastel on black card,upscaled by eye. Sketched in between gray clouds and rain showers. Prominences on the Western Limb of the solar disc. I found it was difficult to ignore the entire disc , the filaments and AR action and keep observing the proms. I enjoy drawing the full disc.
Rain stopped play late afternoon. Full sketch sequence details. 5 sketches Proms May 10th West Limb PA approx 225 Time 10 - 20 UT Proms May 10th West Limb PA approx 225 Time 11-09 UT Proms May 10th West Limb PA 270 Time 14-01 UT Proms May 10th West Limb PA approx 280 Time 15-22 UT Last sketch May 10th PA 315 Time 16-50 UT