MAY 2020 STAR CHART

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Choose from a spectacular, fulldome show in state-of-the-art Sudekum Planetarium; hands-on, interactive exhibits; or one of our award-winning programs like daily Science Live! demonstrations, 3D printing workshops, summer camps and more!

  800 Fort Negley Blvd., Nashville, TN 37203

 We will reopen Thursdays - Mondays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., allowing 150 guests per hour. We strongly encourage buying your tickets in advance.
We will be closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

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DIY Science

We are proud to offer fun DIY science experiments the whole family can enjoy! We hope you'l have fun digging into the subjects below, and we can't wait to see you at the museum.

Please consider making a donation to support the museum's mission during the COVID-19 closure.

MAY 2020 STAR CHART

Click here to download the star chart!

After sunset

The first bright point you’ll see as the sky begins to darken is the planet Venus. Like the other planets, Venus does not produce its own light, but reflects the light of the Sun — and its clouds are highly reflective.


Because it orbits closer to the Sun than Earth, Venus goes through phases, much like our Moon does! Although you won’t see it with your unaided eyes, a small telescope will reveal that Venus is currently a thin crescent.


From our vantage point on the Earth, Venus is moving closer to the Sun, and its crescent is getting thinner and thinner. By the middle of May it will become increasingly hard to see, starting to appear low to the horizon, and getting lost in the glow of sunset. We’ll see Venus again in the morning skies of June.
Look high in the north for the Big Dipper. As famous as the Dipper is, it’s not always easily visible from our latitude in Tennessee. During the autumn, it stays hidden near the northern horizon, only to emerge in the wee hours of the morning. But in the spring, the Dipper is easy to find, high in the north after sunset, almost straigh overhead.


The Big Dipper is not officially a constellation; it’s what astronomers sometimes call an asterism. The Big Dipper is a familiar name for this pattern of stars, especially known to observers in the United States, but it’s not one of the 88 constellations recognized by astronomers worldwide. Ursa Major the Great Bear is the official constellation here, but you’ll need dark skies to see its fainter stars.


Use the two stars at the end of the Dipper’s bowl to lead you to Polaris, also known as the North Star. Polaris is not a particularly bright star, but it does remain fixed in the sky throughout the night and throughout the year, When you face the North Star, you’re facing due north. Polaris is at the end of the handle of the Little Dipper. This group of stars is also officially known as Ursa Minor the Little Bear.

Imagine poking a hole in the bottom of the Dipper to let the water drip out. The water falls onto the back of Leo the Lion. The head and mane of the lion are represented by a group of stars that looks something like a backwards question mark. Other stargazers imagine the top hook of a coat hanger, or a sickle in this group of stars. The “dot” at the bottom of the question mark is Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. It represents the regal heart of the lion.


Go back to the Big Dipper once more and follow its curved handle to trace an ‘arc’ to Arcturus, the orange colored star in Boötes the Herdsman. Then speed on to Spica, the single bright star in Virgo the Maiden. Neither of these constellations has any other bright stars. Even under dark skies away from city lights, it’s hard to imagine these mythological figures just by connecting the dots.


From dark skies

Bright outdoor lighting can make it hard to see all but the brightest stars. On a clear night, find a dark spot far away from city lights, give your eyes time to adjust to the dark, and look for even more celestial sights.
Look between the constellations Leo and Gemini the Twins to find... nothing? Even under dark skies you’ll have to look closely to spot the famous but faint constellation Cancer the Crab, shaped like an upside-down letter Y. Near the center of the Y is M-44, the Beehive Cluster. This open star cluster is a great target for binoculars.


Look for Hercules the Hero below Boötes as you face east. Four of the stars make a trapezoid shape called the Keystone, after the top stone in an arch. Scan with binoculars for M-13, a globular star cluster.

A look ahead


As Earth orbits the Sun throughout the year, the constellations rise and set just a little bit earlier every day. You won’t see much difference from night to night, but you will over the course of weeks or months. What we see in today’s pre-dawn sky is a preview of the early evening sky in later months. Go out before dawn this month for a look ahead at the late summer evening sky. By morning, our winter constellations have set in the west, and even Leo the Lion is setting along the western horizon. High overhead are the three bright stars that make up the Summer Triangle. To the southwest is the J-shaped Scorpius the Scorpion, with the red star Antares.

Look towards the south for Saturn and Jupiter. Jupiter is the brightest of the three, and appears above and to the right of Saturn. Mars is to the southeast. As the weeks progress, Jupiter and Saturn will rise earlier and earlier, on their way to becoming a great evening sight during the summer. Mars will return to evening skies in the autumn. Watch for the Moon to appear near Jupiter on the morning of 12th, and near Mars on the 15th.

Posted by Courtney Cotton at 11:32 AM