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In the Sky This Month

Orion, Taurus, and Auriga, constellations that rep- resent autumn and winter, vanish in the western evening twilight this month. Hercules is well up in the east-northeast by then, with Ophiuchus just climbing into view in the east. Pairs of planets bracket the sky for much of the month: Jupiter and Saturn before dawn, and Venus and Mercury just after sunset.

May 12: Moon and Venus

The Moon and Venus, which is just beginning its reign as the Evening Star, stand side by side, quite low in the western sky, shortly after sunset. Venus will remain low in the sky for months before finally pulling into better view.

May 13: Moon and Mercury

Mercury is putting in one of its best appearances of the entire year. The little planet is low in the west-northwest as evening twilight fades. It looks like a fairly bright star. Tonight, it’s quite close to the crescent Moon.

May 14: Hercules

The constellation Hercules is in good view by the time it gets dark and soars high overhead during the night. Look for the Keystone — four stars that form a lopsided square. It’s in the northeast as darkness falls.

May 15: Farthest Stars

Virgo is well up in the southeast at nightfall, marked by its brightest star, Spica. The constellation contains the most distant star in our own galaxy yet seen, a million light-years from Earth. It is much too faint to see without a telescope.

May 16: The Cat

The star Felis, the cat, is named for an extinct constellation. It was created by a French astronomer in 1799, then abandoned a century later. The star is low in the southwest at nightfall. Under dark skies, it’s just visible to the unaided eye.

May 17: Alkaid

The star at the tip of the Big Dipper’s handle, Alkaid, is 100 light-years away, so the light you see from the star tonight began its journey soon after World War I. Alkaid is much bigger, brighter, heavier, and hotter than the Sun.

May 18: Rasalhague

Rasalhague, the brightest star in Ophiuchus, is quite low in the east as night falls and climbs high across the south later on. Rasalhague is actually two stars that are bound by their gravity, but only one is visible to the unaided eye.

Last quarterLast May 3, 2:50 pm

New MoonNew May 11, 2:00 pm

First QuarterFirst May 19, 2:13 pm

Full MoonFull May 26, 2:14 pm

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Apogee May 11

Perigee May 25

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