Your Night Sky for May 20, 2020


Bootes the Bear

Since the new moon is on the 22nd, this is a great time for sky viewing. Venus and Mercury meet on the 21st, and then Venus will drop down while Mercury rises a little higher. Because Venus is so bright, you may not be able to see Mercury without binoculars when they're so close. So go out and look 30-60 minutes after sunset. If you don't notice Mercury, try using binoculars to find it, and then look without them.

It's time to look for Comet SWAN which will be visible in our sky from May 20 into early June. You can go out around 10:30 in the evening, or in the morning an hour or more before sunrise. Also first use binoculars to find it, then try looking unaided to find it. The peak magnitude is expected to be May 21.

If you go out at night, it will be visible in the NNW 5-7 degrees high in the sky. In the early morning it will be in the ENE at the same low height. You may see its long tail pointing away from the Sun. So try finding it with binoculars and then look with unaided vision. If you find 2 comets, the other one is what's left of Comet ATLAS.

In the evening when the sky is dark you can look high in the S or SE sky for Bootes the Bear or the Herdsmen with 8 stars. It'll be high overhead and is an ancient constellation that is most distinct this time of year. When looking from the south, the kite shape constellation looks like a wide triangle. From the SE it's laying on its side with Coma Berences above it as opposed to being next to it on the right side. It's also known as the Bear Driver since it can be found chasing after the Big Bear constellation Ursa Major.

You may remember that it contains Arcturus which is the brightest star in the Summer Triangle and is the 3rd brightest star in our sky. It's also one of the oldest stars in our sky at only 36 LY away. This orange giant is nearing the end of its life. You can find it at the bottom of the body which is the bottom base of the kite. The other name is Alpha Bootes.

The other bright star is Epsilon Bootis or Izar. It's just to the upper left of Arcturus and is a beautiful double star. The main star is blue and the fainter one is orange. You will need a telescope to see the faint one. Tau Bootis is slightly to the lower right of Arcturus. It's a yellow star similar to our Sun and has a giant planet 3 times the size of Jupiter that orbits the Sun every 3.3 days. It's 5.1 LY from us, so it's relatively close. Have fun observing things in the night or early morning sky.

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