What's Up in The Sky Now

Monthly Stargazing Targets  Getting Started in Astronomy

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May 2017 (Notes by DMAS member Dave Lynch) 


The Planets 

Pickings are a little slim this month in the evening sky. We have a very dim Mars still hanging around in the west and the brilliant Jupiter rising in the east. With the exception of a late arriving Saturn May is not a good month for planet viewing. 

MERCURY has gone bye-bye this month. Not reaching above the horizon, its close proximity to the glare of the sun makes this tiny inner planet impossible to see under any conditions.

VENUS rises very early in the morning this month. After reaching its peak brightness the end of April it will fade only slightly by the end of May and will appear in binoculars or telescopes as a white half disk.

EARTH had hopefully ended its monsoon season and we around here can start to see clear skies at night. Keep in mind though that this wet spring may bring on a bumper crop of mosquitoes.

MARS is finally disappearing from our night sky. It is difficult at best to see now as low as it is, but this month it never reaches any higher in the sky than ten degrees above the horizon and drops below the horizon less than one hour after sunset.

JUPITER is now the king of the night sky and will remain so for the next couple of months. Reaching mid-point in the southern sky by 11:00 p.m., the giant planet will quickly reach the same position by 9:00 p.m. by month's end.

SATURN tops the horizon at about the same time as Jupiter reaches its highest point in the south. Look for Saturn to rise close to 11:00 p.m. at the start of the month and rise even sooner by 9:30 p.m. by month's end.

URANUS has moved from the night sky to the late morning sky. It just barely tops the horizon as the sun rises making it almost impossible to see in May.

NEPTUNE is running slightly ahead of Uranus but is still a poor target this month. It is high enough to see but just barely before the sun rises.



 First Quarter -> May 3
Full Moon -> May 10

Last Quarter -> May 19 
New Moon -> May 25



The Periodic Comet T-G-K is estimated to reach its brightest peak this month as it passes almost directly overhead. The
path of this comet brushes past the bowl of the Big Dipper and just past the head of the constellation Draco. After this
close encounter it moves past Vega and right through Hercules. This comet is expected to reach 6th magnitude which is just un-aided eyesight viewing but it will make for a great binocular object. On its last pass-by in 1973 the comet
flared tremendously in brightness but the experts don't expect that to happen this time around.

TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE IN AUGUST: Total Solar Eclipse - 2017

If you don't know about the Total Solar Eclipse coming August 21, 2017, you soon will. Click the button above for an information sheet. This may be your only chance to see one of nature's greatest shows and you won't have to travel to the ends of the earth to see it. Now is the time to start making plans. Check our Saturday Public Night schedule for programs about the eclipse, or talk to a DMAS member. We do have approved solar viewers available at Ashton. 

Deep Space Objects 

Click the link above for Monthly Stargazing Targets to get details about other things that can be seen this month.


 Meteor Showers

web fireball 9x12Meteor showers come each year at the same time. Click here to see a list and descriptions.






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