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Night Sky: More great galaxies and other highlights for May

This is NGC 4631, the Whale Galaxy. William Herschel discovered NGC 4631 in 1787, but it wasn’t given…

This is NGC 4631, the Whale Galaxy.

William Herschel discovered NGC 4631 in 1787, but it wasn’t given a name until the 1990s. In a 1995 copy of Interstellarum, it was called “The Herring Galaxy,” but NGC 4631 had already been named “The Whale Galaxy” in “Supernova Search Charts and Handbook,” which was written and published in 1990.

The Whale Galaxy has an apparent magnitude of +8.9 and is about 24 million light years away. The small galaxy hovering about NGC 4631 is NGC 4627. It has a visual magnitude of +12.4 and is 31 million light years from us.

It was discovered by Messier’s assistant, Pierre Mechain, in 1787, but it was not included in the Messier catalog until 1947 when Helen Sawyer Hogg added it to the original catalog of 102 deep space objects. M 106 has a magnitued of +8.3 and is about 24 million light years from us. What it doesn’t have is a name, so you first saw it here, I christen M106 the Kaleideoscope Galaxy!

What you can look for in May’s Night Skies

Look to the Western horizon right after sundown. With a little luck and clear skies, you might get to see Venus, Mercury, and Mars. On May 1, Venus and Mercury will closely follow the setting sun (sunset is as 7:49 p.m.). Venus will set at 8:33 p.m. and Mercury at 9:01 p.m. Mars is much higher in the western sky, and won’t set until 12:05 a.m.

Don’t fret if you miss Venus and Mercury on May 1. The two planets will actually appear a little higher in the sky every night as the month goes by. Towards the end of the month, Mercury will appear to catch up to Venus resulting in a planetary conjunction on May 28.

If you get up early on May 1, check out Saturn and Jupiter in the eastern skies. Saturn rises at 2:06 a.m. and Jupiter follows at 3:01 a.m.

The Eta Aquarids peak on May 7 at 4:00 a.m. Look directly east towards the constellation Aquarius and expect a peak rate of 60 shooting stars per hour.

Moon Phases:

Last Quarter is May 3
New Moon is May 11
Quarter is May 19
Full Moon is May 26

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Credit: Original content published here.