- Venus, Jupiter and Mercury will have a
spectacular series of conjunctions in evening twilight during the
last half of May. Skywatchers will need a clear view of the western
horizon to see the stately dance of the planets as it unfolds.
The month will begin with Jupiter high and Venus low in the
west-northwest soon after sunset. Each evening Jupiter will settle
lower while Venus drifts higher as they move toward conjunction on
Mercury will be out of sight for the first half of May as it passes
behind the sun, but it will reappear in the evening sky on May 19,
forming a line with Venus and Jupiter low in the west-northwest.
Venus will be 4 degrees to the upper left (south) of Mercury, and
Jupiter 9 degrees to the upper left of Venus. Binoculars may be
needed to pick Mercury out of the bright twilight.
The line will be shorter each evening as Mercury appears higher and
Jupiter lower. Then from May 24 to 29, Venus, Jupiter and Mercury
will form a triangle that fits within a circle less than 5 degrees
wide. Binoculars will show all three planets in the same field of
view. The trio will be most compact on the evening of May 26 in North
and South America. On May 28, Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest
planets, will be only 1 degree apart. Try to see these planets
immediately after sunset, when they will be highest above the
By May 31 the three planets will again be in a line, but this time it
will be getting longer, with Venus to the lower right of Mercury and
Jupiter to the lower right of Venus. An animation of the three
planets' changing configurations can be seen at
As evening twilight fades during May, bright yellow Saturn will come
into view in the southeastern sky. It will be highest in the south
around midnight. The white star Spica will be about 15 degrees to
Saturn's right (west) and not as bright. Saturn's rings will be
tilted 18 degrees to our line of sight. Its largest moon, Titan, will
be due south of the planet on May 6 and 22 and due north on May 14
Mars will be too close to the sun to be seen during May.
This month Earth will encounter a stream of dust left behind in space
by Comet Halley, causing the Eta Aquarid meteor shower that will peak
before dawn on May 6. The shower will be active for a few days before
and after the peak as well. The meteors will appear to come from a
point called the radiant in the constellation Aquarius, which will
rise in the east about two hours before the start of morning
twilight. The higher this point is above the horizon, the more
meteors will be visible. The waning crescent moon will not rise until
around 4 a.m. local time that night, providing a moonless sky for
Observers in the Northern Hemisphere may see around 25 meteors per
hour, because Aquarius will be close to the eastern horizon. Those
watching in the Southern Hemisphere will see Aquarius much higher in
the sky, and there may be twice as many meteors per hour at the peak.
The moon will be at third quarter on May 2, new on May 9, at first
quarter on May 18, full on May 25 and at third quarter again on May
Questions about space and astronomy,
and comments and suggestions about this SkyViews site are welcome.
Write to Jay Respler, JRespler@superlink.net
Sky Views is compiled
by Jay Respler and is based on information from the Sky Report
of Abrams Planetarium, Department of Physics & Astronomy at Michigan State University, and Hal Kibbey of the Indiana University Office of Communications & Marketing. Thanks are extended for their cooperation.