Your Astro Guide for May 2016

Mars at opposition. Your Astro Guide for May 2016.

Mars will be at opposition on May 22. Opposition occurs when the sun and Mars are on opposite sides of the Earth. That means Mars will be the brightest it’s been in 11 years, with a magnitude of -2.1. This is the great opportunity to observe the “red planet.”

Jupiter will be above the horizon at dusk in the beginning of May. It will set just before 4 am. Mars will rise around 9:46 pm, followed by Antares at 10:06 and Saturn at 10:13 pm. This small triangle is easy to spot, making it easy to find the two planets.

Mercury's transit. Your Astro Guide for May 2016.

Mercury sets at 8:40 pm beginning already on May 1. It is very close to the sun, so don’t look for it before the sun has set. Even at dusk, the sun can be bright enough to cause eye damage. Mercury will set about seven minutes earlier each night during the month, and each night it will get closer to the setting sun.

On May 9, mercury will transit across the face of the sun. Do not try to watch this event with the unaided eye or sunglasses — you will damage your eyes. if you want to view this event, you will need a telescope and a very good solar filter. The video at the bottom explains your many options for witnessing this event. The next transit of Mercury will be in 2019. A planet is said to “transit” the sun when it crosses between the earth and the sun. Obviously, only Mercury and Venus can transit the sun.

Pluto rose about 12:40 am on May 1.

Neptune and Uranus will not offer good viewing in May.

Eta Aquarids. Your Astro Guide for May 2016.

 

The Eta Aquarids meteor shower will “peak” at about 4 am on May 6. Keep in mind, that’s just the peak. Meteor showers are usually visible for several days both before and after their peak. However, at the peak, the Eta Aquarids usually offers about 60 shooting stars an hour. This meteor shower will appear to originate in the eastern sky.

Vega, the fifth brightest star in the sky, rises just after sunset in the northeast. Vega is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra.

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