May 2020 is when the Northern Observer is looking out into intergalactic space! With Leo, Virgo, Ursa Major, and other constellations in that patch of the sky, one should always grab your telescope and see how many other galaxies you can find!
First Quarter Moon: May 1
Full Moon (Flower Moon): May 7
Last Quarter Moon: May 14
New Moon: May 22
May is the best month to be looking towards Virgo! Virgo is a very large constellation, and if you can find the bright star Spica, then you know where Virgo is. Use the common technique known as “Arc To Arcturus, then spike tp Spica” to help you find the bright star and thus the constellation.
During the spring months, Virgo is very prominent in the southern sky. As it is in the direction of the Virgo Cluster, this constellation contains numerous galaxies, many of which are visible as faint smudges through telescopes.
So I Heard About This “Smiley Face Conjunction” on May 16…
Here Are The Events that WILL Actually Happen!
Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower – May 5-6
The Eta Aquarids are a moderate shower, reaching a rate of 55 meteors per hour. But unfortunately, this shower is better suited for people in southern latitudes, particularly near the equator. The radiant doesn’t rise until after 2 am, and doesn’t get very high in North America, so you won’t see a ZHR of 55 from northern latitudes. Plus, the moon will be nearly full that night, so don’t expect to get a great sky for viewing. Rating: Acknowledged but don’t lose sleep over it!
Moon Jupiter Saturn and Triangle – May 12
Once more, the Moon will join Jupiter and Saturn to form a tight triangle in the sky. You’ll be able to cover all three objects with your hand held at arms length! While the conjunction will rise between 12:30 – 1:00 am local time, the formation will best be viewed higher in the southern skies around 4 am. Rating: It’s cool to check out, but this the second of six expected triangles between the three objects for 2020!
Mercury and Venus Conjunction May 21
Low in the west after sunset, you’ll be able to see the two innermost planets at the same time through a telescope at low power! Mercury will be less than one degree south of Venus. The only downside is it may be difficult to spot as they won’t start being visible to the naked eye until they are 13° above the horizon, and that’s if it’s unobstructed. Rating: Acknowledged – But it’s very easy to miss!
Can You Just Tell Me Where the Planets Are Visible?
Mercury: Will be in conjunction with the Sun at the beginning of the month, but will start being visible low in the west after sunset after May 15
Venus: very prominent in the west after sunset early in May, but will start getting too close to the Sun’s glare later in May. Just before it does, you’ll definitely want to point your telescopes at Venus, as it will appear as a thin crescent!
Earth: Still not flat….
Mars: Will be best viewed at 5 am as early morning target in the southern skies, rising around 2:30 am May 1/ 1:30 am May 31. It will gradually shift west to east from Capricornus to Aquarius.
Jupiter: In the constellation Sagittarius, visible in the early morning hours before sunrise. It rises around 1am on May 1/ 11 pm May 31.
Saturn: As it is less than 5° to the left of Jupiter when looking South, the same rules of Jupiter’s visibility apply to Saturn.
Uranus: In Aries – In conjunction with the Sun until late May. Then it will be low in the east at sunrise, rising around 4 am.
Neptune: In Aquarius, low in the southeast before sunrise. It rises shortly before 4 am May 1/ 2 am May 31.
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