Sky Spy: Moon watch

2013-05-09T00:00:00Z Sky Spy: Moon watchTim Hunter Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

New moon is today, and there is a solar annular eclipse visible in parts of Australia and the South Pacific.

Crux the Southern Cross has colorful bright stars and clearly resembles what it is supposed to represent.

It is so beautiful that it appears on a number of national flags, including those of Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.

Unfortunately, Crux is too far south to be seen in the continental United States except from the Florida Keys and the southern tip of Texas where it is just visible above the southern horizon.

When I first moved to Tucson in 1975, I heard an anecdote that the top star in the Southern Cross Crux is sometimes visible just above the southern horizon from Kitt Peak National Observatory.

It is indeed true the most northern star in the Southern Cross, Gacrux, is visible from Southern Arizona. Gacrux is a very bright red star, and I have seen it from Sonoita as it rose about a degree above the horizon. It is best seen in binoculars but is visible to the unaided eye if you have a very flat horizon free of clouds, haze and light pollution.

If you are up for a real challenge, give Gacrux a try in the next day or so while the moon is not very bright.

In theory Gacrux gets high enough to be seen from Tucson, but the city lights will make it very difficult to see. I recommend you go south of Tucson as far as possible, have a perfectly flat southern horizon, and a dark sky.

Tonight, from Tucson Gacrux is predicted to rise at 8:35 p.m., transit (reach its highest altitude above the horizon) at 9:43 p.m., and set at 10:50 p.m.

If you miss Gacrux, do not fret. It's tough. Instead enjoy the small constellation of Corvus the Crow 35 degrees above Gacrux.

Contact Tim Hunter at skyspy@azstarnet.com

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