The May Skies

“Do not look at stars as bright spots only. Try to take in the vastness of the universe.”

Maria Mitchell, Astronomer

The tiny planet Mercury is positioned too close to the glare of the sun to be visible from Earth during May. It will appear in bright evening twilight during the last half of June.

Brilliant Venus shines as the “Evening Star” during twilight in the western sky. It will appear higher in the sky each night during May.

Mars continues to grow bigger and brighter each night during May as Earth, in its faster orbit, catches up with the Red Planet. Some surface features will become visible in small telescopes this month.

This is a great month to view huge Jupiter through an amateur telescope. Look for it in the southeastern evening sky at dusk. Jupiter comes to opposition on the evening of May 8, at which time it will be directly opposite the sun in our sky. On that date it rises in the east as the sun sets in the west. Jupiter and its four large Galilean moons will be at their biggest and brightest for the year at that time.

Ringed Saturn rises in the southeast around midnight as May begins and about two hours earlier at the end of the month. The best views of its magnificent ring system will be in the predawn hours in the southern sky.

Uranus is too dim to be seen in the brightening dawn sky this month.

Neptune glows faintly near the eastern horizon as dawn breaks during May.

Editor’s note: This monthly guide to the stars is from the Marshall Martz Memorial Astronomical Association and The Post -Journal. For further information, contact the M.M.M.A.A. at martzobservatory.org.

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