Huestls: Some Astronomical Events in May
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Here’s a brief sampling of astronomical events we can expect to observe during May.
Jupiter will continue to be well-placed in the sky. Drag your telescopes out of the garage or basement and focus in on this giant planet. There is much detail to be seen here. For more details reference my April column. You can find it on the Skyscrapers web site. If the skies are clear for the open nights at the local observatories, Jupiter will be one of the featured objects for a few more months. On May 1 it can be found about 35 degrees above the southeast horizon in the constellation of Virgo, above the bright star Spica. Jupiter will be the brightest object in this area of the sky. You can’t miss it.
It’s been a while since we’ve experienced a decent meteor shower. That bad weather is once again to blame. On the night of May 5-6 we can observe a shower of particles shed by Halley’s Comet long ago. They enter the Earth’s upper atmosphere head-on at 41 miles per second. Unfortunately we can expect no more than 10-15 swift and yellow shooting stars from this shooting star display per hour. Why? This meteor shower, called the Eta Aquarids, is best seen from the southern hemisphere. And this year a bright waxing gibbous Moon will be in the sky until about 3:45am, reducing the peak number of meteors even more. Because the Eta Aquarids come in so fast, you can still expect a few bright ones to be seen despite the Moon’s presence.
This shower is best observed after midnight. Aquarius, the constellation from where the meteors appear to emanate, is not very prominent. For many casual stargazers it can be a little difficult to recognize even without bright moonlight. Aquarius will be about 12 degrees above the east-southeast horizon at the 4:00am hour. The shower’s radiant point is in the Water Urn asterism (looks like a Y-shaped group of stars). While the meteors appear to radiate from this region of the sky they can be seen anywhere. Once the Moon sets dawn’s early light will not be far behind, so you will not have a dark sky for a long duration to see the most meteors.
Also at the beginning of May practically everybody’s favorite planet will be rising after midnight. Soon it will be visible at a more convenient time for the casual stargazer. I’m talking about magnificent Saturn. Saturn’s rings are opened almost to their maximum extent soon, so the view will be stunning. The planet currently resides on the Sagittarius/Ophiuchus border, just to the right of the teapot shape that forms Sagittarius and to the right of the Milky Way that seems to pour from the spout of the teacup. Saturn will be at its closest to the Earth for 2017 on June 15 at approximately 840,571,000 miles. I’ll provide more details about Saturn in next month’s column.
Perhaps you are aware that there are many names given to a Full Moon. Many of these we have adapted from Native American cultures. Others have come from the early American settlers who brought them over from Europe. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason for favoring the use of one over the other.
The Full Moon of May is on the 10th. Because spring flowers were heralding a new season, Native Americans called that moon the Full Flower Moon. Other names used were Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon. Perhaps I should write a column about Full Moon names and their origin for a future column.
And finally, for you early morning risers, on May 17 you can catch a glimpse of Mercury, our solar system’s innermost planet. Just before sunrise look towards the east and about ten degrees (a fist held out at arm’s length provides this measurement) above the horizon. You may also try a few days before and after, but on this day it will be at its highest. Good luck.
Southern New Englanders, and especially Rhode Islanders, are very fortunate to have so many observatories that provide wonderful views of the heavens. As long as the skies are clear these facilities are happy to offer free public observing of the universe. Seagrave Memorial Observatory in North Scituate is open to the public every clear Saturday night. Ladd Observatory in Providence is open every clear Tuesday night. The Margaret M. Jacoby Observatory at the CCRI Knight Campus in Warwick is open every clear Wednesday night. Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown is open every clear Friday night year-round. Be sure to check all the websites for the public night schedules and opening times before visiting these facilities.
Cross your fingers, your legs or your eyes for good luck. Just remember to uncross your eyes when you get to the telescope eyepiece!
Great American Total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017. Countdown: 113 days as of May 1, 2017.
Related Slideshow: 25 Things to do in New England for Free this Spring - 2018
The Cliff Walk is one of Newport’s most famous attractions is its gilded age mansions lining the coast. Entry to the mansions will cost a fee, but with the Cliff Walk, you can enjoy views of the mansions with amazing views of the water all for free.
The 3.5 mile long path runs behind the mansions on the eastern shore of Newport. It is a National Recreation Trail – the first in New England! The majority of the walk is easy, but be sure to wear good shoes; the sand can make the path slippery.
Merrimack, New Hampshire
The Budweiser Clydesdales are the most recognizable mascots in the beverage industry and a visit to the Clydesdale Hamlet at the Anheuser-Bush Brewery will get you a free meeting with them.
For this 21 and over, you can take a tour of the brewery and see it result in free beer at the end.
PHOTO: Billy Zoom/flickr
New Haven, Connecticut
Take a free tour of Yale University and while you are there be sure to walk through the Yale Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art.
If you time it correctly, you might even get to attend one of the Yale School of Music’s nearly 300 annual performances.
South Deerfield, Massachusetts
Yankee Candle Village headquarters are located in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, where they call themselves “Scenter of the Universe.”
Walk around the store for hours, exploring all the different showrooms with varying scents. The complex is something to see.
Be warned though, you may be tempted to buy a candle or two.
Eartha at DeLorme Mapping Company
Eartha is the worlds largest rotating globe taking up three stories and is entirely computer controlled and rotates.
It is about as life-size a replica of the earth as you will find anywhere.
The DeLorme Mapping Company was bought by Garmin and is closed, however, the building is still open for those who wish to view the giant globe.
Tourists also have access to the second and third-floor balcony for a different view of the globe.
Admission is FREE.
PHOTO: DeLorme Map Company
If you want a little bit of an outdoor adventure, hike to Royalston Falls in Royalston, MA. The hike itself isn’t too long, but it can be challenging. It leads you to a remote gorge created by prehistoric glacial meltwater and 45 foot plunging waterfall within a half-hidden ravine. If you’re up for the adventure, the destination is far worth the trek.
Chocolate lovers this is for you.
Take a free tour of Lake Champlain Chocolates and even get some free samples. What is better than that?
The tour takes approximately 30 minutes and is seated. There is no walking involved.
Tours run Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.but are limited to 35 people.
See a replica of the world's first submarine and learn about it through films before stepping aboard the USS Nautilus for a free audio tour.
Nautilus was the first nuclear powered submarine and the first vessel to travel 20,000 leagues under the sea.
The ship is now open to the public year round and is free.
Rhode Island’s own version of Boston’s Freedom Trail, follow the painted green line for the Independence Trail. The 2.5 mile tour of historic Providence “takes you over four centuries of history, architecture, culture, and folklore.”
Don’t worry about where to begin, the route is circular so you can start anywhere! Along the painted green trail on the sidewalks you’ll find red emblems with a phone number and a location number.
The Sprinkler Factory is not actually factory, but rather a gallery. Though, its namesake does come from the real-life sprinkler factory started by Howard Freeman in WWII. Why? Because he embodies “the spirit of innovation.” With the aim of providing the public with a place to display and enjoy the visual arts, the Sprinkler Factory hosts exhibitions once a month, and they’re always free.
Since 1983, the Boston Fire Museum has operated in the old fire house on Congress street showing off the history of the Boston Fire Department. The Museum shows off antique fire equipment, fire alarm displays, photo displays and artifacts.
Admission to the Museum is FREE.
Providence WaterFire has grown to be an iconic Rhode Island event. Starting out in 1994 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of First Night Providence, it has grown to run continuously, once a month, from May-November and boasts over 80 blazing fires in the middle of the Providence River. WaterFire is a not-for-profit organization that aims to creatively transform Providence – and they do! Each event is accompanied with music by artists from around the world, varies food stands and art stands to browse as you stroll along the river.
Old North Church, located on Salem Street, is Boston's oldest surviving church, and it's also the place where Paul Revere gave the signal that the "British were coming," on April 18,1775.
Once he gave the signal, two lanterns were raised high, meaning that they were coming by sea to Lexington and Concord, not land.
This event began the American Revolution.
Head to Concord, Massachusetts and then to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where you will find "Author's Ridge."
Author's Ridge marks the final resting place of legendary writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott.
Allagash Brewing Company offers FREE beer tasting every day that they are open. Participants receive four, 3 oz samples of beer during the tasting.
The tastings do change every few days.
Photo courtesy of Allagash Brewing Company
The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology is Brown University’s teaching museum. It aims to inspire creative and critical thinking about culture by "fostering interdisciplinary understanding of the material world."
Admission is FREE.
Take a hike at Purgatory Chasm and see the unique landmark that formed naturally approximately 14,000 years ago. Theory has it that the chasm was formed near the end of the last Ice Age with the sudden release of glacial meltwater that had been dammed up. Pretty neat! The chasm is ¼ mile long and runs between giant granite rock, sometimes standing at 70 feet high! You do have to pay to park ($5 MA residents, $6 for you out-of-staters), but exploring the reservation is completely free.
Runs from Worcester to Providence
The idea behind the Blackstone River Bikeway was to create a bike path running 48 miles, from Worcester to Providence along the National Heritage Corridor. It links the Blackstone River and the Blackstone Canal and will eventually connect with the East Bay Bike Path in Rhode Island. The path isn’t completed yet, but riders can enjoy the segment that is, free of charge.
Take a FREE tour of Sam Adams Brewery and see where some of the best beer is made. Learn about the history of Sam Adams beer, how it's made, experience the entire craft brew process and of course try some samples.
The tour departs every 45 minutes and lasts about an hour.
Photo courtesy of Sam Adams Brewery
The Freedom Trail is a two and a half mile walking tour that connects 16 significant Boston landmarks.
Interior access to the Freedom Trail's sites is also free, except for the Paul Revere House, the Old South Meeting House and the Old State House.
The Freedom Trail is a great way to get exercise, explore Boston and learn about history, all at the same time.
Newport, Rhode Island
The Naval War College Museum in Newport is one of fifteen official museums operated by the United States Navy, under the direction of the Naval History & Heritage Command and in co-operation with the Naval War College.
Admission is FREE.
Photo courtesy of Naval War College
See how potato chips are made during a free tour of the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory.
Upon conclusion of the tour, you will even get a free sample of Cape Cod Potato Chips.
The Rhode Island State House is home to the nation’s 4th largest self-supported marble dome – and you can get an inside look for free. All year, except holidays, the State House offers 50 minute guided tours Monday-Friday starting at 9:00 am with the last tour departing at 2 p.m.
On the tour you’ll see things like the Bell Room, where RI has its replica of the Liberty Bell on display, and of course, the rotunda, where you can look up at the dome.
Worcester’s Canal District is home to eleven buildings that originate from the early 1800s. Preservation Worcester wants you to enjoy the history available to you, for free! They offer a Canal District Walking Tour, By the Canal, to expose you to the stories of the people and historical events that created Worcester. You can pick up a free tour brochure at the Preservation Worcester office on Cedar Street, download a printable version of the tour and tour map, or download audio files to phone to do an audio tour.
Runs from Providence RI to Bristol RI
If you’re looking for a dose of natural beauty and healthy activity, try going for a spin on the East Bay Bike Path. The first bike facility to be under the State, it is a 13.8 mile trail that connects 8 different parks from Providence to Bristol. Do the whole thing or just a stretch and cross over bridges and by coves on the Narragansett Bay shore. The bike path is open year round.
Photo: Michael St Jean/Flickr
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