"The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination, but the combination is locked up in the safe."
- Peter de Vries

Comet Holmes and the California Nebula (D. Dockery) 

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Highlights for May, 2017

The Moon and Planets:

The Moon. The month begins with a 6-day old crescent Moon. First quarter occurs on May 2nd. The gibbous moon appears close to Jupiter on May 7. Full Moon occurs on March 10. The Moon will appear near Saturn on the night of May 13. Third quarter occurs on May 18.Venus and Moon pair up during the pre-dawn hours of May 22. New Moon is May 25. Moon is also at perigee on 5/25, so tides will be high.



Mercury will be difficult to see during May except for a few days around the middle of the month when Mercury reaches maximum elongation (May 17). For a few days proceeding and following May 17, look for Mercury low in the east about an hour before sunrise.

Venus shines brightly in the pre-dawn sky throughout May.

Mars continues to slowly descend toward the Sun's glare. It's still visible throughout May, but this is probably the last full month to see the red planet.

Jupiter (in Virgo) is high in the evening sky throughout May. A double shadow transit occurs on May 18th. Io, Io's shadow and Europa's shadow will all be on Jupiter's face between 10 and 10:30 pm. On May 25, a double transit of Io and Europa (and Europa's shadow) will pass across the planet. About the time Europa ends its transit, Io's shadow will begin transiting, so another double shadow transit from 11:50 pm til 1:10 am (26May).

Saturn (in Sagittarius) rises a before midnight during May. By month's end it rises just a little after 9 pm. Saturn is near the Moon on May 13.

Outer Planets. Uranus and Neptune. Uranus (in Pisces) emerges from the Sun's glare about mid-way thru May. Neptune can be seen low in the East a couple of hours before dawn.

Pluto Our favorite dwarf planet rises in the early morning throughout April (around 11:30 pm). It is very slowly emerging from the core of the Summer Milky Way, but still tricky to find because of its dimness (magnitude 14.3) and location.

Comets, Asteroids and Meteor Showers:

Comet 1P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak is still visible and near its maximum brightness as May begins. The comets spends the first half of May in Lyra, then moves into Hercules. It will slowly fade as the month progresses. Comet C/2015 ER61 (Panstarrs) had a major outburst in early April and brightened by two magnitudes. It's still fairly bright and will be moving thru the length of Pisces during May. Comet C/2015 V2 (Johnson) will move through Bootes during May. As of May 1st, the comet was around 9th magnitude. All of these comets require binoculars or a small telescope for viewing.

The eta Aquarids meteor shower lasts nearly a month, but peaks in early May. The shower got its meteors from Halley's Comet back when its orbit took it closer to Earth. The shower has a broad peak that's predicted to peak on the morning of May 4th. Find a dark sky and a comfortable chair, and you might see 10-20 per hour.

Constellations and Deep Space Objects:

Galaxy season is fully upon us. Last month, we looked at some of the bright galaxies in Virgo. For Apri and May, we turn our attention to the myriad of bright galaxies near Ursa Major. There are ten Messier galaxies and dozens of NGC galaxies in this part of the northern sky. Some of the brighter (Messier) targets are shown below. Most can be observed with a modest telescope. Many can be viewed with binoculars from a dark sky location.

April Galaxies