Yesterday, I gave a remote presentation to my wife’s middle-school astronomy students; using the Windows app SpaceEngine, I gave them a “Tour of the Milky Way Galaxy:” I took them to a couple exoplanets, double and multiple star systems, star-forming regions, several planetary nebula, a supernova remnant, 2 black holes, a globular cluster, the Large Magellanic Cloud, and the Andromeda Galaxy. I orbited around the Milky Way and showed the galaxy to the students from every possible angle – including edge-on, which I LOVE doing!
I also flew the students thru the galaxy’s arms and dust lanes at impossible faster-than-light speeds – just like the old Windows screensaver! I wanted to give the students the impression that the Milky Way is an ocean full of stars.
This presentation was a lot of fun – I’m going to have to tweak it a bit, and add some items to the object list – like Betelgeuse! I can see this becoming something I present frequently!
I mentioned last week that I sound like a broken record mentioning every week that Jupiter and Saturn continue to appear in the southeastern predawn sky – but there they are, so broken record it is! Jupiter is moving away from Saturn a little bit each week; I suppose I could keep mentioning that too!
Mars and Mercury appear above the western horizon after sunset.
The Moon appears in conjunction with the star Regulus on May 18th and 19th.
The Moon appears in conjunction with the star Spica on May 22nd and 23rd.
The star Vega appears almost directly overhead at 4:30 AM all week.
The Moon is a Waxing Crescent – visible toward the southwest in early evening.
The First Quarter Moon occurs on May 19th – visible high in the southern sky in early evening.
After May 19th, the Moon will be a Waxing Gibbous – visible to the southeast in early evening, and up for most of the night.
If you click on the Moon image above, or click this link, you will go to NASA’s Moon Phase and Libration, 2021 page – it will show you what the Moon looks like right now. If you click the image on that page, you will download a high-rez TIFF image annotated with the names of prominent features – helpful for logging your lunar observations!
The Sun has 2 spots – one of the 2 from last week is rotating out of view, and a new spot is rotating into view, and it’s crackling with C-class flares.
Spaceweather.com reports: “GEOMAGNETIC STORM WATCH: Minor G1-class geomagnetic storms are possible on May 18-19 when a pair of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) is expected to hit Earth’s magnetic field. The two CMEs left the sun on consecutive days: One from sunspot AR2822 on May 13th, the next from sunspot AR2823 on May 14th. Individually, the CMEs appear to be weak and insubstantial; however, they could add up to a geomagnetic storm when they arrive in quick succession today or tomorrow.”
A couple intense regions of coronal loop activity are rotating towards the center of the Sun’s face
The northern coronal hole remains small, but this week, the southern coronal hole has determined that it’s taking over! The southern hole itself is huge, and has merged with a very large hole, stretching up past the equator! Watch the left side of the video, you can see the coronal loops buckle and return after a couple flares!
Moderate prominence activity; the region rotating into view is spitting-out flares like crazy!
You can view the Sun in near real-time, in multiple frequencies here: SDO-The Sun Now.
You can create your own time-lapse movies of the Sun here: AIA/HMI Browse Data.
You can browse all the SDO images of the Sun from 2010 to the present here: Browse SDO archive.
Solar Activity on Facebook – Run by Volunteer NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador Pamela Shivak
Solar wind speed is 393.3 km/sec, with a density of 7.9 protons/cm3 at 1210 UT.
Click here to see a near real-time animation of the corona and solar wind from the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).
- Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) discovered this month: 175, this year: 1043 (+106), all time: 25,839 (+98)
- Potentially hazardous asteroids: 2178 (+1) (updated 2021-05-18)
- Total Minor Planets discovered (NASA): 1,082,130 (+1545)
- Total Minor Planets discovered (MPC): 1,069,907 (updated 2021-04-27)
Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
|Asteroid||Date(UT)||Miss Distance||Velocity (km/s)||Diameter (m)|
|2021 JY5||2021-May-18||3.6 LD||3||12|
|2021 JF3||2021-May-18||11.9 LD||11.7||52|
|2021 JR4||2021-May-18||7.1 LD||7.6||35|
|2021 JC9||2021-May-18||13.1 LD||12.6||30|
|2021 KA||2021-May-19||4 LD||5.1||11|
|2021 JJ3||2021-May-20||17.2 LD||6.3||29|
|2021 JE1||2021-May-20||7.4 LD||7.6||17|
|2021 JQ6||2021-May-21||5.9 LD||19.4||25|
|2021 JT6||2021-May-21||19.6 LD||6.1||18|
|2021 KC||2021-May-21||7.9 LD||7.9||71|
|2021 HJ2||2021-May-22||16.1 LD||8.2||69|
|2021 JK7||2021-May-22||19 LD||22.4||49|
|2021 JJ5||2021-May-23||13.1 LD||8.7||32|
|2021 JJ7||2021-May-24||5.8 LD||11.4||42|
|2021 FN4||2021-May-24||6.1 LD||8.3||84|
|2021 HD3||2021-May-25||12.2 LD||7.9||47|
|2013 VO11||2021-May-25||3.5 LD||10.2||8|
|2021 JG1||2021-May-26||2.2 LD||9.2||37|
|2021 JN7||2021-May-26||18.8 LD||7.4||37|
|2021 JF1||2021-May-27||13.7 LD||17.3||126|
|2021 JX2||2021-May-27||5.7 LD||3||15|
|2021 JP3||2021-May-28||11.6 LD||7.1||21|
|2021 JN6||2021-May-28||13.7 LD||7.1||19|
|2018 LB||2021-Jun-01||2.9 LD||7.7||22|
|2021 JW6||2021-Jun-02||8.1 LD||5.4||21|
|2021 JM6||2021-Jun-12||11.1 LD||8.4||33|
|2021 GM4||2021-Jul-01||12.1 LD||6.3||150|
|2020 AD1||2021-Jul-04||2.8 LD||4.9||20|
|2019 AT6||2021-Jul-13||4.2 LD||5.1||11|
Notes: LD means “Lunar Distance.” 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. Table from SpaceWeather.com
On May 17, 2021, the NASA All Sky Fireball Network reported 6 fireballs!
If you see a bright meteor or a fireball, please REPORT IT to the American Meteor Society and the International Meteor Organization!
Position of the planets & several spacecraft in the inner solar system on May 18th; the Parker Solar Probe has crossed the orbit of Mercury.
Position of the planets in the middle solar system:
Position of the planets, and a several spacecraft in the outer solar system on May 18, 2021 seen from dwarf planet Eris.
Solar System News:
Evidence of “recent” volcanic activity on Mars:
Read more about Mercury’s sodium tail here: https://science.nasa.gov/mercurys-sodium-tail
China Becomes 2nd Nation to Land a Rover on Mars!
Dragonfly Mission to Titan
International Space Station:
HiRISE – on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:
Hubble Space Telescope:
Satellite Constellations… eww!
See a list of current NASA missions here: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/?type=current
ex·o·plan·et /ˈeksōˌplanət/, noun: a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun.
Data from the NASA Exoplanet Archive
* Confirmed Planets Discovered by TESS refers to the number planets that have been published in the refereed astronomical literature.
* TESS Project Candidates refers to the total number of transit-like events that appear to be astrophysical in origin, including false positives as identified by the TESS Project.
* TESS Project Candidates Yet To Be Confirmed refers to the number of TESS Project Candidates that have not yet been dispositioned as a Confirmed Planet or False Positive.
Visit NASA’s Eyes on Exoplanets site and explore exoplanets in 3D: https://eyes.nasa.gov/apps/exo/#/
SpaceWeather.com Realtime Aurora Gallery: https://spaceweathergallery.com/aurora_gallery.html
An old college buddy told me that his brother lives in this city.
Visit an International Dark Sky Park: https://www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/parks/
If you live in Michigan, visit the Michigan Dark Skies site: https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/darkskies/
Digitized Sky Survey – Beautiful Universe: Simeis 147 (Sh2-240) Supernova Remnant
Stay safe, be well, and look up!
Software Apps used for this post:
NASA Eyes on the Solar System: an immersive 3D solar system and space mission simulator – free for the PC /MAC. I maintain the unofficial NASA Eyes Facebook page.
SpaceEngine: a free 3D Universe Simulator for Windows. Steam version with VR support available.
Stellarium: a free open source planetarium app for PC/MAC/Linux. It’s a great tool for planning observing sessions. A web-based version of Stellarium is also available.
Section header image credits:
The Sky – Stellarium / Bob Trembley
Observing Target – Turn Left at Orion / M. Skirvin
The Moon – NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Sun – NASA/JPL-Caltech
Asteroids – NASA/JPL-Caltech
Fireballs – Credited to YouTube
Comets – Comet P/Halley, March 8, 1986, W. Liller
The Solar System – NASA Eyes on the Solar System / Bob Trembley
Spacecraft News – NASA Eyes on the Solar System / Bob Trembley
Exoplanets – Space Engine / Bob Trembley
Light Pollution – NASA’s Black Marble
Aurora – Bob Trembley
The Universe – Universe Today