The great planetary conjunctions just keep rolling along. Venus and Jupiter begin this month as they ended the previous one, appearing to almost touch each other in the dawn sky. Jupiter stages a similarly close encounter with Mars late in the month. With summer approaching, however, sunrise comes early, so you’ll need to awaken in the wee hours of the morning to catch the action.
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In the Sky This Month
May 24: Beta Bootis
Bootes, the herdsman, is high in the sky at nightfall. It looks like a faint kite, with bright yellow-orange Arcturus at the tail. The top of the kite is Beta Bootis. Three decades ago, it produced one of the most powerful explosions ever seen from a “normal” star.
May 25: Two Pair
Two pairs of bright worlds highlight the dawn sky the next couple of days: the Moon and Venus, and Jupiter and Mars. Jupiter and Mars are in view by a couple of hours before sunrise, low in the east. The Moon and Venus, the Morning Star, rise a little later.
May 26: Galaxies Aplenty
Look up into a dark, starry night sky and hold out your hand at arm’s length in front of your face. Now look at the fingernail on your little finger. That tiny area is covering up millions of galaxies, and perhaps tens of millions.
May 27: Mars and Jupiter
Jupiter and Mars will huddle as close as half a degree from each other the next few mornings, which is less than the width of a pencil held at arm’s length. The brighter planet is Jupiter, with Mars close to its lower right tomorrow, and even closer on Sunday.
May 28: Deneb Algedi
The planet Saturn, which looks like a bright star, is tailing the sea goat these days. It’s just a couple of degrees from Deneb Algedi, the star that represents the tail of Capricornus, the sea goat. They are in the southeast at first light.
May 29: New Moon
The Moon will be new at 6:30 a.m. CDT tomorrow as it crosses the line between Earth and the Sun. The Moon will be lost in the Moon’s glare. It will return to view, as a thin crescent, in the western evening sky on Tuesday or Wednesday.
May 30: Tau Herculid Meteors
The Tau Herculid meteor shower could put on a good show tonight. Little has been seen of the shower in recent decades, but some models say it could produce dozens of meteors or more tonight. The view will be better from the southern U.S. than the north.
First May 8, 7:21 pm
Full May 15, 11:14 pm
Last May 22, 1:43 pm
New May 30, 6:30 am
Times are U.S. Central Time.
Apogee May 5
Perigee May 17
The full Moon of May is known as the Milk Moon, Flower Moon, or Corn Moon.