Volume XVII, Issue 19 # MAY 7 - May 13, 2009

Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll

The Celestial Chase

As the scorpion rises, the great hunter sets

Friday’s full moon rises in the southeast as the sun sets in the northwest around 8pm. As it arcs through southern skies, the moon climbs no higher than 30 degrees above the horizon. Six months hence, this is the same path that the fading autumn sun will travel through the day. For now, however, the sun climbs higher in the sky each day as we approach summer solstice, and at the same time the moon dips closer and closer toward the southern horizon.

Saturday the moon rises more than an hour later, followed by the stars of Scorpius, with the red-giant Antares less than 10 degrees to lower left of the moon. The following evening, the waning gibbous moon rises after 10pm, now trailing Antares by only a few degrees.

As the scorpion rises in the east each spring, its stinger poised to strike, its nemesis the giant Orion fades from view beneath the western horizon to “take a bath in the ocean,” as the Greek poet Homer wrote.

In Greek myth, a blinded Orion waded through the sea to the sun god Helios, who restored his sight. Similarly, when the great hunter was out-matched by the scorpion, he fled. Come autumn, he rises again — from the ocean — as scorpius sets, continuing the chase for another season.

Mercury, too, is fading from view, and should be out of sight by next week. Look for this surprisingly bright planet at best 10 degrees above the northwest horizon following sunset.

As evening skies darken, Saturn is high in the south and working its way to the southwest through the night.

Before dawn, Venus glares low in the east with Jupiter high above and much fainter Mars but five degrees behind.

Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2009 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.