The faint but famous constellation Hercules climbs into the sky on May evenings, and stands high in the east as night falls by the end of the month. It is marked by a four-sided figure known as the Keystone. The huge star cluster M13 perches between the Keystone's top two stars. Libra, the balance scales, climbs into view in the south, heralding the pending return of the summer constellation Scorpius.
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In the Sky This Month
May 24: Omega Centauri
Omega Centauri contains millions of stars packed into a ball a few dozen light-years across. It is bright enough to see with the eye alone, but only from the southern third of the U.S. It is quite low in the south about 11 p.m. and looks like a fuzzy star.
May 25: Last-Quarter Moon
The Moon will be at last quarter tomorrow, indicating that it is three-quarters of the way through its monthly cycle of phases. Sunlight will illuminate half of the lunar hemisphere that faces Earth.
May 26: Guitar Nebula
Cepheus, the king, is low in the north at nightfall. The constellation’s brightest stars form a shape that resembles a child’s drawing of a house.
May 27: Ceres at Opposition
Ceres, the largest member of the asteroid belt, puts in its best appearance of the year this week. It lines up opposite the Sun so it’s in the sky all night. It’s brightest for the year, too, although you need binoculars to find it.
May 28: Beta Scorpii
Beta Scorpii, a system of at least six stars, is at the left side of a row of stars that represents the head of Scorpius. It’s low in the southeast at nightfall, above Antares, the scorpion’s bright orange heart.
May 29: Rising Swan
Cygnus, the swan, rises in the northeast this evening. Its body appears parallel to the horizon. To find the swan, look for its brightest star, Deneb, low in the northeastern around 10 or 11 p.m.
May 30: M101
The beautiful galaxy M101 stands near the handle of the Big Dipper. A telescope reveals the face-on spiral, which is similar to our home galaxy, the Milky Way.