May 2011 night sky

If it weren’t for gifts and donation many observatories around the globe just wouldn’t exist. Our understanding of the universe would probably be limited.

Recently, Betty Coombs and Jean Millman made telescope donations to the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers. Thank you. The telescope that Jean donated was used by her late husband, John Millman, who was a long-time member of the Hamilton Naturalist club.

Back on May 31, 1935, the David Dunlop Observatory in Richmond Hill opened its doors to the public. It was a donation to the University of Toronto from Jessie Donald Dunlop as a memorial to her late husband David Alexander Dunlop.

The 74 inch primary mirror in the observatory’s telescope was assembled in 1933. Without the primary mirror, the telescope weighed an astonishing 23 tons.

Throughout the years, the university used it as a research facility. In 1971, Dr. Tom Bolton looked through the telescope to confirm the existence of black holes. The observatory was also used for public outreach programs.

In 1995, the Town of Richmond Hill passed a light pollution bylaw to help preserve dark skies for the observatory. The university closed and sold the observatory in 2008 to Metrus Development Inc.

However, it reopened to the public in 2010 thanks to the Toronto Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. That year more than 1,700 people visited the observatory.

A visit to the observatory should be on every space lovers bucket list. For more information on observing sessions please see www.theddo.ca/.

Here are some important events for May stargazers. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar.

Planet watching

Mercury, Venus and Mars are very low in the north east sky during morning twilight. Jupiter rises around 4 a.m. Saturn is high in the southern sky during late evening and sets near dawn.

Uranus will appear low in the eastern sky near morning twilight by the middle of the month.Neptunewill appear low in the east around 3 a.m. by mid month.  Pluto rises in the south east around midnight.

My 3 – New moon

May 5-6 – The best time to see the Eta Aquarids Meteor shower is after midnight on May 5 when 10 per hour can be seen. Some can also be seen May 4 – 7.  Debris burning in the atmosphere from Comet Halley creates this meteor shower.

May 7 – Celebrate International Astronomy Day with the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers and observe celestial objects through telescopes. Solar observing with special telescope filters 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. (warning never look at the sun directly) and night sky observing 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. atMcQuestonParkinHamilton. The park is located on Upper Wentworth south of theLincoln Alexander Parkway.

May 10 – First quarter moon.

May 11 – Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will form a vertical line. Mars will be just below them in the eastern morning sky around sunrise.

May 13 – Hamilton Amateur Astronomers meeting at 7:30 p.m., HamiltonSpectator building,44 Frid St.,Hamilton. Free admission with door prizes. An optional donation of non-perishable food items will be collected for local food banks.

May 15 – Moon at perigee or closet to the Earth for the month at 362,132 km.

May 17 – Full Moon. Early First Nations people called it the Flower Moon since flowers were in abundance. It’s also known as the Full Corn Planting Moon, Corn Moon, Milk Moon and the Hare’s Moon.

May 24 – Last quarter moon.

May 27 – Moon at apogee or furthest from the Earth for the month at 405,044 km.

For more information, please see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers web site at www.amateurastronomy.org or call (905) 627-4323.

Mario Carr is director of public education, Hamilton Amateur Astronomers and can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca.

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About Mario Carr

Mario Carr has a Physics degree from McMaster University and hosts this blog. He is the director of public education for the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers and has helped to raise the profile of the group. He writes an astronomy column and appears on CHCH-TV to talk about the night sky. Mario is the founder of the Carr Marketing Group in Burlington, Ontario and can help with your marketing, communications, publicity and public relations needs. He can be reached at www.carrmarketinggroup.com or mariocarr@cogeco.ca.
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