Fun astronomy facts to impress your friends with!

May 2016

1st –Looking to the southeast around midnight you will see the red planet Mars above the red star Antares. Today Mars is about 54 million miles away from Earth while Antares is about 550 light years away 

2nd – Looking to the west around 8:30 tonight you will see Orion the Hunter just above the horizon. Soon this constellation will not be visible at night again until late fall. 

3rd – Looking high in the southwest around 10 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like a backwards question mark. These stars form the head of Leo the Lion! 

4th –Looking to the northeast around midnight you will see the summer triangle. Kepler 16 b is a planet found in this area. It is like Luke Skywalker’s planet because it orbits 2 stars.  May the 4th be with you! 

5th – On this date in 1961, Freedom 7 was launched atop a Mercury Redstone rocket.  On board was Alan Shepard who became the first American in space. 

6th – Public telescope viewing will be held at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium tonight with the St. Louis Astronomical Society. For more information visit www.slsc.org 

7th – On this date in 1992, Space Shuttle Endeavour lifted off on its maiden voyage into space. Endeavour is now retired and on display at the CaliforniaScienceCenter.   

8th – Looking to the southeast around 9 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like a rectangle. This is the spring constellation Virgo the Maiden. 

9th – Never look directly at the Sun but today you can join us at the Saint Louis Science Center and safely watch planet Mercury move across the Sun from 9:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. 

10th – Looking to the southeast around 11 o’clock tonight you will see the bright red star Antares. Antares means the rival of Mars. Look above this star to see its rival Mars! 

11th – Looking to the northwest around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the Big Dipper. The Big Dipper is part of the constellation Ursa Major the Great Bear. 

12th – Looking near the center of the sky around midnight tonight you will see a group of stars that look like a kite. This is the constellation Bootes the Herdsman. 

13th – Looking to the northwest around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the bright star Pollux. If you look to the right of this star you will see its twin star Castor. 

14th – Today is International Astronomy Day! You can celebrate with safe solar observing and free astronomy activities at the Saint Louis Science Center from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.! 

15th – Looking to the southwest around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the waxing gibbous Moon. Look to the right of the Moon to see Jupiter! 

16th – Mars has 2 moons named Phobos and Deimos which means fear and terror. Both moons are smaller than the Earth’s moon.  Phobos is about 14 miles wide and Deimos is about 8 miles wide. 

17th – Earth’s atmosphere contains about 78% nitrogen gas while Martian atmosphere contains about 96% carbon dioxide gas. 

18th – Looking to the southeast around 10 o’clock you will see the waxing gibbous moon.  Look to the right of the Moon to see the star Spica. This star is about 250 light years away! 

19th – Looking to the southeast around 11 o’clock tonight you will see Mars very close to the star Dschubba. Over the next week you will see Mars move farther from this star each night! 

20th – Looking to the southeast around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the Moon above Mars. Look below and to the left of Mars to see the planet Saturn! 

21st – Looking to the southeast around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the Moon next to Mars. Tonight is the Full Flower Moon because around this time of year flowers are in full bloom. 

22nd – Mars is at opposition tonight which means you can see it from the time the Sun sets until the time the Sun rises. Mars is best viewed in telescopes during oppositions. Look to the southeast around 9 o’clock to see Mars. 

23rd – A day on Mars or a sol is about 24 hours and 39 minutes where a day on the Earth lasts about 24 hours. Mission control has to begin operations 39 minutes later each day to operate the rovers. 

24th – On this date in 1962, Scott Carpenter flew aboard Aurora 7 becoming the 2nd American to orbit the Earth. He completed 3 orbits and reached an altitude of 164 miles 

25th – During oppositions, Mars will appear larger in the eyepiece of a telescope but never any larger to the naked eye. If you hear that Mars will be as big as the Moon in the sky, it is a hoax. 

26th – On this date in 1951 Sally Ride was born in Los AngelesCalifornia.  She was the first American woman astronaut and served as mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger. 

27th – Sometimes Mars is hidden behind the Sun and we can’t see it from Earth. This is called a solar conjunction which lasts about 2 weeks. We lose communication with robot probes during these times. 

28th – If you draw a line through the 2 stars in the front of the bowl of the Big Dipper across the sky you will find the North Star. You can see this star every night of the year weather permitting. 

29th –The rover Opportunity was only supposed to last 90 days. This past January it has operated on Mars for 12 Earth years and is beginning its 13th year of operations! 

30th – Mars is at the point where it will be closest to Earth in its orbit tonight. Mars will be 46 million miles from us and because of its closeness it will appear bright in the sky! 

31st – The stars tell us summer is almost here! Looking to the east around midnight you will see the bright stars of the summer triangle. You will see these stars earlier in the evening during summer.