May is here and May is galaxy month! During the month of May the Virgo Galaxy Cluster can be found high in our skies and in a very visible spot for observation. The Virgo Galaxy Cluster is a huge cluster of 1300 – 2000 galaxies which make up the heart of the Virgo Supercluster. The center of the cluster lies a mere 54 million light years away from Earth. The Local Group, which is home to the Milky Way galaxy, is part of the Virgo Supercluster making this region the center of the observable universe. When looking to the sky, you can find the Virgo Cluster between the bright star Denebola in Leo and the slightly dimmer Vindemiatrix in Virgo. On a clear, moonless night setup your telescope and pan around this area of the sky to catch dozens of galaxies passing by your view.
This weekend is the peak of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Early Sunday morning before dawn, meteors will streak across our skies. These meteors are left over debris from Halley's Comet and can light up our skies with up-to 10 meteors per hour with a small possibility for significantly higher rates. The Eta Aquarids are a fantastic meteor shower for those who live in the southern hemisphere surely ranking among the top meteor showers of the year. This year, viewing conditions are favorable. The 19% waning crescent Moon will rise at 3:15 a.m. and will not hinder meteor viewing but will offer a beautiful view of the thin crescent with Earthshine easily visible. The weather also looks to be spectacular. Be sure to make it a priority to step out and view a few Eta Aquarid meteors Sunday morning!
Here is a call to action for all the night photographers in the area. The summer milky, made up of the Sagittarius arm and center of the Milky Way galaxy, has moved into a very visible position after midnight and will be rising earlier every night. The summer Milky Way is a fantastic target for night photographers with its vast dusk lanes, bright nebulae, and endless stars. To photograph the Milky Way you will need a very dark location largely free of light pollution, excessive trees, and moonlight. Ninigret Park, where Frosty Drew Observatory calls home, is one such location. Stop in tonight after midnight for a sampling of the views we have at Frosty Drew Observatory.
Tonight could be a clear, moonless night. Follow us on Twitte for on site updates on the sky conditions. Tomorrow could be a clear, moonless night with meteors and milky way. That sounds like a night photographers fix of the year!