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Heavenly sights right before sunrise

Most of the planetary action has shifted to the predawn skies. Jupiter and Venus move apart in the eastern sky as Jupiter moves a little higher each morning.

Mercury is low to the horizon all next month before sunrise. On the 13th it is right to the left of Saturn half an hour before sunrise. This planetary duo forms a straight line with brilliant Venus and Jupiter. Binoculars may be needed to pick out the Mercury-Saturn pair.

Saturn then moves higher in the sky for a close pairing with Venus on the 29th.

At the planetariums

St. Petersburg Junior College

The SPJC Planetarium (Fifth Avenue and 69th Street) offers "Our Place in the Universe" on Friday and May 8. There is no show on the 15th, but the "Stars of Summer" will begin on the 22nd. As always, shows are at 7 and 8:15 Friday nights. The observatory will be open if skies are clear. All events are free.

Science Center of Pinellas County

The center (7701 22nd Ave. N) is celebrating the arrival of a telescope at the Carol Samuels Observatory with a party for Astronomy Day on Saturday. The activities are from 3 until 11 p.m., and includelectures, observing, displays, and laser and planetarium shows. This rain or shine event will give you a chance to see the largest telescope open to the public in Tampa Bay.

The Science Center also will open its planetarium and observatory from 8 to 11 p.m. May 30. Come see if you can find the smallest and most distant of the planets!

Bishop Planetarium

The Bradenton planetarium offers a new star show, "Light Years From Andromedia," at 1 and 4 p.m. all week. Presentations are also at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with admission to the observatory program. Their new 8-inch telescope is the largest refractor telescope in Florida.

The Saturday morning family program for the junior set is "Snooty's Great Space Adventure," followed by "Gentle Giants" in the museum.

As always, there is a great assortment of laser shows with a Pink Floyd double-feature the last weekend of each month. Call (941) 746-7827 (STAR) for more information.


In Tampa, the Saunders Planetarium has "The Mars Show" and "Bear Tales" for junior astronomers.

The MARS astronomy club has a free telescope sky-watch every Saturday after sunset, weather permitting. The club meets at 7:30 p.m. the second Friday of each month in the museum.

This Saturday in the lobby of the MOSI museum, MARS will celebrate Astronomy Day starting at 9 a.m. There will be exhibits next to the library.

MOSI has scheduled Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets, To Fly and 3-D laser light shows. Coming May 22 is Everest.

May sky calendar

FRIDAY _ The observatory grand opening and Astronomy Day activities at the Science Center of Pinellas County, 3-11 p.m. Astronomy Day activities at MOSI start at 9 a.m.

SATURDAY _ First quarter moon.

SUNDAY _ Mercury is at its greatest angular distance of 27 degrees from the sun. Look for it low in the east 45 minutes before sunrise.

MONDAY _ Look in the early morning hours to see the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. You may see a dozen per hour coming from the east.

MAY 8 _ The moon is at its greatest distance from the earth at 252,190 miles.

11 _ Full moon.

12 _ Mars is in conjunction _ on the other side of the sun.

13 _ Using binoculars, look east 45 minutes before sunrise to find Mercury to the left of Saturn. Mercury, Saturn, Venus and Jupiter all make a straight line in the sky.

15 _ No planetarium show at St. Petersburg Junior College this Friday only.

16 _ Marine Quest at Florida Marine Institute (100 Eighth Ave. SE, St. Petersburg). This excellent event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

19 _ Last quarter moon.

22-24 _ Mercury, Saturn and Venus form a straight line in the east before dawn's light.

22 _ Look east 45 minutes before sunrise to find Venus to the left of the crescent moon.

23 _ Look east 45 minutes before sunrise to find Saturn above the thin crescent moon. The moon is closest to the earth at 224,725 miles.

25 _ New moon.

28 _ Pluto is at opposition _ visible all evening with a large telescope.

29 _ Look to the east 45 minutes before sunrise to find Saturn next to Venus! Use binoculars to find the dimmer Saturn.

30 _ The Science Center of Pinellas County will have its new 16-inch telescope set up from 8 to 11 p.m. Come see if you can find Pluto.

Daryl L. Schrader teaches astronomy and mathematics at St. Petersburg Junior College and astronomy at the University of South Florida.