PASADENA, Ca. (NASA JPL) – Spring constellations yield science targets you can see. I’m Jane Houston Jones at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
May is a great month to see a lovely collection of constellations with your own eyes and view objects studied by NASA spacecraft and telescopes. Use the moon to help locate the constellations this month.
On May 13 the crescent moon is between the ‘feet’ of the Gemini twins. The stars Pollux and Castor mark the heads of the twins.
The Eskimo Nebula, studied by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, is a fine object to view through small telescopes.
From the 14th through the 17th the moon passes the pretty Beehive Cluster located in the Y-shaped constellation Cancer.
The first planets to be found orbiting sun-like stars in a star cluster were found in the Beehive by NASA-funded astronomers using the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Arizona.
On the 18th and 19th you’ll find the moon near the paws of Leo the Lion.
A trio of Leo galaxies have been extensively studied by many telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory’s Visual Survey Telescope. This trio — M-65, M-66 and NGC-3628 — is a popular target for amateur astrophotographers, too.
On the 22nd you’ll find the moon near the V-shaped constellation Virgo — and Saturn.
The Palomar telescope observed a chain of galaxies in the heart of the Virgo Cluster, another popular, but challenging, amateur astronomer target called Markarian’s Chain.
Nearby are the constellations Cygnus and Lyra, home to the Kepler Habitable Planet Search Grid, where the smallest Habitable Zone planets were just discovered in April.
That’s all for this month. I’m Jane Houston Jones.
CREDIT: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology