This is your monthly guide to observing the planets, celestial events, moon phases, this day in space history, NASA launches, and other astronomy resources.
Observing The Planets:
- Mercury (not visible) is hidden in the Sun’s glow.
- Venus (not visible) is hidden in the Sun’s glow.
- Mars (morning planet, magnitude -1.5, in Scorpius) rises in the evening and visible through dawn. Mars will be at opposition on the 21st.
- Jupiter (evening planet, magnitude -2.2, in Leo) is high at after dusk and sets in the early morning.
- Saturn (morning planet, magnitude +0.2, in Ophiuchus) high in the south-southeast in the early dawn.
- Uranus (not visible) hidden in the sunrise.
- Neptune (evening planet, magnitude +8, in Aquarius) very low in the east-southeast in early dawn.
Understanding Visual Magnitude: Magnitude is a scale for measuring the brightness of objects in the sky. The dimmer the object the greater the number. The brightest objects generally receive negative numbers. Venus can be as bright as magnitude -4.9, the full moon is generally -12.7 and the sun is -26.8.
Moon Phases & Celestial Events:
- May 5-9: Eta Aquariid meteor shower will peak on the nights of May 5 – 6. It will be best viewed between midnight and dawn. This meteor shower is associated with Comet Halley.
- May 5: Moon at perigee (closest to Earth) at 11 pm CDT at a distance of 357,827 km with and angular size of 33.4′.
- May 6: New Moon at 2:29 pm CDT.
- May 6: Double shadow transit on Jupiter from 11:38 pm to 12:43 am CDT. Both Callisto and Io will cast their shadows onto Jupiter’s face.
- May 7: Moon 6° from Aldebaran.
- May 9: Transit of Mercury. WARNING: NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN — IT WILL INSTANTLY DAMAGE YOUR EYES. Observers should us a safe Sun filter attached securely to the front of their telescope. The transit will begin at 6:12 am CDT; mid-transit at 9:58 am CDT; and ends at 1:42 am CDT. The next transit of Mercury will occur on November 11, 2019.
- May 13: First Quarter Moon at 12:02 pm CDT.
- May 14: Moon less than 4° from Jupiter.
- May 14: Spring Astronomy Day
- May 18: Moon at apogee (farthest from Earth) at 5 pm CDT at a distance 405,933 km with an angular size 29.4′.
- May 21: Full Moon at 4:14 pm CDT.
- May 21-22: Mars at opposition. Next opposition in July of 2018.
- May 22: Moon about 4° from Saturn.
- May 29: Last Quarter Moon at 7:12 am CDT.
No NASA missions are scheduled for May.
Want to learn more about what goes on each week on the International Space Station? Watch NASA’s weekly Space to Ground video log.
This Day In Space History:
- May 1, 1949: Gerard Kuiper discovers Nereid, moon of Neptune.
- May 5: Alan Shepard was the first American in space. It was the first manned flight of Project Mercury. Alan Shepard named the space capsule the “Freedom 7”.
- May 14, 1973: Skylab launched.
- Satellite flybys: Want to know when satellites, the International Space Station, and the Hubble Space Telescope will fly over your location? Enter your zip code here to get a personal calendar.
- Our Current Solar System: Find out the current distances and locations of the solar system planets from the Earth and sun right now.
- The Stargazer’s Guide to the Night Sky
- Sighting the International Space Station (ISS)
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