May’s evening skies are soft and subdued. Leo leaps high across the sky, with the twins of Gemini sinking in the west, along with the nearby brilliant star Capella. Equally brilliant Arcturus climbs high overhead. The planets make up for some of the faintness of the stars, though. Venus, the Evening Star, is well up in the west, climbing toward Gemini’s twins. The next-brightest dot in the night sky, the planet Jupiter, is higher in the sky. And though it’s not as brilliant as its sibling worlds, giant Saturn puts in its best showing of the year, sparkling all night.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
May 3: El Nath
El Nath, the second-brightest star of Taurus, the bull, is close to the lower right of Venus, the “evening star.” Its name comes from an Arabic phrase that means “the butting one.” It refers to the star’s position at the tip of one of the bull’s horns.
May 4: Moon and Saturn
The almost-full Moon arcs low across the south tonight. It’s accompanied by the planet Saturn, which looks like a bright golden star. Saturn is close to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall, and even closer to the Moon at first light tomorrow.
May 5: Moon and Companions
The Moon is part of a brilliant triangle tonight. The orange star Antares is close to the lower right of the Moon as they climb into view in late evening. The brighter planet Saturn is about the same distance to the upper right of the Moon.
May 6: Evening Mercury
Mercury stands farthest from the Sun for its current evening appearance. The planet is in the west-northwest as night begins to fall. It looks like a bright star, but it’s so low in the sky that you need a clear horizon to spot it.
May 7: Earth’s Shadow
A few minutes after sunset, look for a blue-gray band of color just above the eastern horizon, with pink above it. The dark band is Earth’s shadow. As Earth turns on its axis the shadow will engulf you and the daytime sky will give way to night.
May 8: Cor Caroli
Cor Caroli, the brightest star of Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs, is in good view on spring evenings, not far inside the curve of the Big Dipper’s handle. Its name means “Heart of Charles,” in honor of England’s King Charles II.
May 9: North Pole
The Big Dipper stands high overhead early this evening, with the bowl upside down. Link the two stars at the outer edge of the bowl and follow that line down toward the horizon. The first moderately bright star you come to is Polaris, the North Star.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.