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Home / Explore / Astronomy Info & Events: May

Astronomy Info & Events: May

The Visible Planets

Mercury is not seen at the start of the month as it will be at superior conjunction on May 4. It however begins to gain elevation, moving out of the Sun’s glare by May 15, and joins Venus in our early evening western sky. After sunset on May 21 you can see Mercury just below the bright planet Venus, making for a wonderful conjunction of these two inferior planets. On May 23 look for the very slim waxing crescent Moon below Venus and Mercury.

Venus continues to shine brightly in the western sky after sunset early in the month. However, as time progresses, Venus slowly begins to sink lower and lower into the western sky until by months end Venus disappears into the glare of the setting Sun. Look for a nice conjunction of Venus with Mercury and the waxing crescent Moon after sunset on May 23 and 24.

Mars is slowly beginning to brighten and can be seen low in the southeastern sky before sunrise. Mars moves from the constellation of Capricornus, the sea goat, into the adjacent constellation of Aquarius, the water bearer, on May 9. It remains traversing the stars of Aquarius for the rest of the month. The last quarter and then the waning crescent Moon pass below Mars on the mornings of May 14 and 15.

Jupiter is the brilliant object located in the constellation of Sagittarius, the archer, where it remains for the rest of the year. It rises in the southeast before 3:00 am early in the month but by the end of month it is seen rising just after midnight. After May 14 Jupiter begins to move in retrograde motion as the Earth, with its speedier orbit, begins the process of overtaking Jupiter over the next four months. On May 12 Jupiter will be seen just above the waning gibbous Moon and just to the west of the fainter planet Saturn making a nice triangle of celestial objects in the southeastern sky before sunrise.

Saturn rises along the southeastern horizon at around 3:00 am local time at the start of the month and then just after midnight by the end of the month. It can be found among the stars of the constellation of Capricornus, the sea goat. The waning gibbous Moon can be seen below Saturn before sunrise on May 12 and 13 with the brighter planet Jupiter just to the south.

Moon Phases

May 7 Full Moon (Flower Moon or the Frog Croaking Moon)

May 14 Last Quarter Moon

May 22 New Moon

Special Events

Breaking News: Comet Atlas Y4 has broken up and may not put on the great show that was anticipated by many!

Comet Atlas C/2019 Y4 was to brighten this month but in the middle of April this potential great comet broke up on its inward journey through the solar system and has since dimmed appreciable. Nevertheless, comets can be unpredictable and there may be a chance of seeing this comet by the end of May low along the northern horizon. The comet moves down to Perseus this month. You can find a finder chart for the comet here: https://heavens-above.com/comet.aspx?cid=C%2F2019%20Y4&lat=53.5461&lng=-113.4938&loc=Edmonton&alt=0&tz=MST

Breaking News: Comet Swan (C/2020 F8) may become a naked eye comet!

With the demise of Comet Atlas (C/2019 Y4) another comet that was just recently discovered may become naked eye brightness between May 15 and 23. With an estimated peak brightness of around 3.4 (about the brightness of the faintest star in the Big Dipper bowl Megrez) this comet may also be seen from an urban location if you can find a dark location in your backyard to look northward. During its peak brightness this comet moves from the constellation of Triangulum into the constellation of Perseus. A finder chart can be found on the Sky and Telescope website at https://skyandtelescope.org/astronomy-news/new-comet-alert-trio-of-comets-grace-our-skies/

International Space Station (ISS) Observable Passes

Look for passes of the ISS all month long during the night. The ISS always moves in the starry sky from west to east. Exact times of these passages for your location can be found by visiting the website http://www.heavens-above.com or by using satellite tracking smart phone apps like Sputnik.

May 2 International Astronomy Day

Special events in and around the TELUS World of Science – Edmonton.

Extending evening observing at the RASC observatory until midnight tonight.

Update: Special virtual star party on Zoom (weather permitting)

May 4 Star Wars day!! May the Fourth be with you.

May 6 Eta Aquarid meteors peak in the early morning hours.

Zenith hourly rate of approximately 50 meteors/hour.

May 10 Mother’s Day

May 11 Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Edmonton Centre meeting

7:30 – 9:30 p.m. Zoom virtual meeting due to COVID-19

Free to attend.

See http://www.edmontonrasc.com for more details.

May 12 Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon conjunction in the sky before sunrise.

May 14 Mars is approximately 3° above the waning gibbous Moon tonight.

May 18 Victoria Day

May 21 Mercury will be found about 1° south of Venus after sunset tonight.

May 23 Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends tonight!

May 29 Arthur Eddington tested Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity at a solar eclipse 101 years ago today.

May 30 Lunar straight wall visible tonight