Stargazers to hold final open night and outdoor party

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Whitby and District Astronomical Society’s final open night is to take place at the Bruce Observatory, Whitby Community College, on 5 May from 9pm, writes Mark Dawson.

The group is also holding the first of its public star parties from the West Cliff, near the Captain Cook statue on 18 May from 9.30pm.

Jupiter now lies low in the evening twilight bringing to an end its long reign as the night skies dominant planet.

There is one last ‘hurrah’ when it is briefly joined by both Mercury and Venus towards the end of May before being lost in solar glare.

The moon lies nearby on 12 May. Having reached opposition, Saturn is now at its best, taking over from Jupiter as main planetary interest.

Look for its pearly glow across in the E/SE before midnight, due south around midnight and to the SW post midnight.

Although twice as far away as Jupiter is from us, Saturn still appears quite conspicuous, brighter than Spica the fist magnitude star in Virgo located to its right.

Observed through a telescope Saturn is a stunning spectacle, one which always draws gasps of awe, especially when viewed for the first time.

The glorious rings are now favourably orientated, a sight any modest telescope will easily reveal.

Look carefully and you will discern the major gaps, notably the Cassini division.

Several of Saturn’s moons should also be apparent as specks of light close by, the most prominent of which being Titan, which moves around Saturn roughly twice a month. The moon lies nearby on 22 May.

l Don’t miss the monthly Night Sky column in full on our website for the latest on Comet Pan Starrs and the eta Aquarid meteor shower.