Today Mercury is passing through maximum elongation, the furthest it will rise above the setting Sun in the evening sky. After today the planet will slide back into the Sun’s glare headed for inferior conjunction on July 21st.
This is the most favorable evening apparition of the year, reaching over 25° from the Sun. The October apparition is almost as good reaching over 24° from the Sun.
Jupiter will pass through opposition at 05:11HST today.
Jupiter orbits the Sun once every 11.86 years. As the giant planet continues on its way the Earth swings around much faster on our inside track. As a result we lap Jupiter once every 399 days, passing between the planet and the Sun. During opposition Jupiter will rise at sunset, transit at midnight, and set at dawn. This makes the planet available for observation for the entire night.
Look for a bright object rising in the eastern sky after sunset. It is difficult to mistake for anything else, shining at it’s brightest during opposition, a brilliant -2.7 magnitude. For the remainder of the spring and much of the summer, the planet will be quite prominent in the evening sky.
This evening was the local hearing for the proposed Mauna Kea Public Access Rules. As the hearing took place at Waikoloa School I had no excuse not to go, it is practically at the end of our street. Of course I was going to attend even if I had to drive across island, this is an issue that directly affects me.
And yes, I testified, attempting to summarize my three pages of written testimony in three minutes. I suspect I got the gist across in a clear fashion, I will submit my written testimony as well.
Other than myself the testifiers were completely drawn from the anti-telescope community. It is unfortunate that the issue has become so polarized that no other members of the community attended. Access to the mauna affects more than just the astronomy and anti-astronomy folks, this should be of interest to anyone who calls the island home.
As such many of the testifiers paid scant attention to the contents of the rules, instead of providing constructive input so much testimony was simply another protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope. Some form of rules need to be put in place with or without the new telescope.
It is now round three for the Mauna Kea public access rules. The first versions of the rules were simply bad and rightly faced unanimous criticism from the community. Virtually nobody testified in support of the first version at the public meetings.
This latest version of the rules is much better, at least someone properly edited the rules and there are no complete blunders in the language.
There are still some items in the rules that are problematic. In general the university is attempting to regulate public activity on the mauna far beyond their mandate in the lease or in the comprehensive management plan.
This evening will feature a a pretty set of planets and the Moon low in the sunset. Mercury, Mars, and a thin crescent Moon will be visible above the glow of the setting Sun.
The Moon will be a very thin sliver, a mere 4% illuminated. Look 7° above the Moon for Mars. Mercury will be harder to spot, about 7° below the Moon, closer to the sunset and a little north (to the right).