The first few nights of the month look for Mars near a waxing gibbous moon. Mars is currently visible in the sky towards the south about 1 hour after sunset in the constellation Leo near the star Regulus. Mars is a blazing red object so it’s very easy to differentiate from Regulus.
On the 4th and 5th you’ll see Saturn near the moon as well in the constellation Virgo. Saturn which looks yellow will also be near the star Spica which has a bluish appearance and twinkles. Remember: stars twinkle, aircraft blink, and satellites move quickly across the sky. Planets do not exhibit any of this behavior.
The full moon on May 5th is going to be spectacular. Dominating the eastern sky at sunset, it is the closest full moon to earth in 2012 and will appear 14% wider than the full moon in November. It will also setup some great waves for all the surfers out there.
On Sunday, May 20th, if you’re in a narrow viewing path in the western United States and Asia you will be able to see an annular eclipse. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun but doesn’t completely block it. A ring appears around the moon during the eclipse and it will be a sight to behold. For times and viewing locations checkout the article 2012 annular eclipse of the sun over at EarthSky.org. Remember: you must use appropriate eye protection when viewing an eclipse! So get yourself some eclipse glasses if you want to view this phenomenon.
On the 28th look for Mars near a waxing gibbous moon and then look for Saturn on the 31st near an even larger moon. Note how much the size of the moon has changed in just 3 days.
Venus is still blazing brightly low in the western sky. It’s currently in a crescent phase and is gradually enlarging as it approaches Earth and will soon transit the sun (more on that next month).
Jupiter is slowly riding off into the sunset after putting on a great show for us last month.
Wow! What a great month for astronomy! I hope you get an opportunity to view some of these spectacular events. You don’t need any special equipment, just your eyes (except if you’re viewing the eclipse), to enjoy the marvelous heavens above us all!
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork.