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In the Sky This Month

Mars takes center stage this month. The planet shines brightest for the year, outperforming all but the Moon and Jupiter. Saturn trails close behind it, and it’s nearing its peak for 2016 as well. In the meantime, Virgo climbs higher into the evening sky, Leo begins to nose down toward the western horizon, and the twins of Gemini begin to disappear in the western twilight by month’s end.

May 31: Saturn Opposition II

Saturn is putting on its best showing of the year. It rises at sunset, remains in view all night, and is brightest for the year. It looks like a bright golden star low in the southeast at nightfall. It stands to the lower left of brighter Mars.

June 1: Vega

Vega, one of the brightest stars in the northern sky, stands low in the northeast at nightfall and climbs high overhead later on. A disk of dust surrounds the star. It may be the debris from collisions between asteroids or even planets.

June 2: Vanishing Twins

Pollux and Castor, the twins of Gemini, are getting ready to vanish in the evening twilight. They stand side by side in the western sky as night falls like a pair of celestial eyes, with Pollux to the left. They’ll disappear from view by month’s end.

June 3: Saturn Opposition III

Saturn is at its best right now. The planet rises at sunset, remains in view all night, and shines at its brightest. Look for it low in the southeast at nightfall, shining like a bright golden star. It stands to the lower left of even brighter Mars.

June 4: Eltanin

Eltanin, the brightest star of the constellation Draco, the dragon, is about half way up the northeastern sky at nightfall. It is a moderately bright orange star, and stands to the upper left of much brighter Vega.

June 5: Ophiuchus and Serpens

Two constellations that are entwined in both mythology and the sky are in good view in the east and southeast. The outline of Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer, looks a bit like an old coffee pot. It is flanked by the two halves of Serpens, the serpent.

June 6: Barnard’s Star

The second-closest star system to our own, Barnard’s Star, is low in the east at nightfall. The star is so faint, though, that without a telescope you would never know it’s there. It’s in the big constellation Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer.

Current moon phase

New MoonNew May 6, 2:30 pm

First QuarterFirst May 13, 12:02 pm

Full MoonFull May 21, 4:14 pm

Last quarterLast May 29, 7:12 am

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Perigee May 5

Apogee May 18

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