In the Sky This Month

The Moon stages some especially close encounters with several stars and planets this month. It teams up with Saturn and Mars in the dawn sky, along with Neptune, which is too faint to see with the eye alone. Mercury creeps in there as well, but it’s difficult to spot. The Moon snuggles especially close to Antares, the bright orange heart of the scorpion, near month’s end. The Summer Triangle begins to climb into the evening sky, along with Libra, the balance scales, a lead-in to the prominent summer constellation Scorpius. On the other hand, Leo, the lion, plunges head first toward the southwestern horizon.

The full Moon of May is known as the Milk Moon, Flower Moon, or Corn Moon.

Perigee May 5
Apogee May 17

Moon phases are Central Time.

Moon Phases

May 1 6:27 am
Last Quarter Last Quarter
May 7 10:22 pm
New Moon New Moon
May 15 6:48 am
First Quarter First Quarter
May 23 8:53 am
Full Moon Full Moon
May 30 12:13 pm
Last Quarter Last Quarter

The Hand

Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer, is in the east and southeast at nightfall. The snake’s head is above Ophiuchus, with its tail below. The left hand of Ophiuchus, which holds the snake’s head, is marked by the stars Yed Prior and Yed Posterior.

Slimmed-Down Cluster

The star cluster Messier 12 probably is more than 16,000 light-years away, and it contains about 200,000 stars packed into a tight ball. The cluster is in Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer, which is in the east and southeast at nightfall. You need a telescope to see M12.

Messier 5

Messier 5 is a cluster of several hundred thousand stars. It is well up in the southeast at nightfall, in the constellation Serpens. It’s a bit too faint to see with the eye alone, but through binoculars it looks like a fuzzy star.

Serpent Rising

Serpens is the only constellation that’s split apart. The two halves are separated by Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer. The snake’s head is in the east and southeast at nightfall. The tail climbs into good view by about an hour later.

Cor Caroli

Cor Caroli, the brightest star of Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs, is in good view on spring evenings. It’s almost directly overhead at nightfall, above the curve of the Big Dipper’s handle. Its name means “Heart of Charles,” in honor of England’s King Charles II.

The Bear

Ursa Major may be the most famous constellation that isn’t well known. Most of us know it for a pattern formed by only some of its stars: the Big Dipper. But few know that the dipper’s bowl forms the body of a bear, while its handle is the bear’s tail.

Moon and Antares

The Moon appears to almost touch the bright star Antares tonight. Antares represents the heart of the scorpion. It is one of the largest, brightest, and most massive stars in our region of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Man in the Moon

The features of the “man in the Moon” are a combination of dark, smooth volcanic plains and lighter jumbled areas. You can look for the face the next couple of nights because the Moon is full. The bright star Antares is to the lower left of the Moon this evening.

Balanced Moon

The Moon is in a sort of cosmic balance tonight. It is passing through Libra, the balance scales, which is the only constellation of the zodiac that doesn’t represent a living thing.

Sun Rays

One of the icons of western movies is the sunset, with rays of sunlight radiating into the sky from behind mountains or clouds. They are called crepuscular rays, from the Latin word for twilight. They appear to converge at the Sun because of perspective.

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