All Month: Venus holds a prominent place in the morning sky, brightening swiftly after inferior conjunction (passing between earth and sun) in early April. Its distance to the sun's right is still increasing, but also slants south of the equator, keeping the planet relatively low in the morning twilight. While Venus is in the east at dawn, Saturn and Jupiter are in the west, Saturn dim and just about setting, Jupiter very bright in the southwest. Saturn moves into the evening sky during May, but Jupiter remains a morning star till early August. Mercury is also a morning star, Mars an evening star, both dim and poorly placed for viewing. Halley's comet in May: Shortly after May 1, Halley's comet begins approaching earth again but is still about 500 million miles away from us. The comet has not yet begun to brighten noticeably or develop a tail. (Events in the calendar below are given in Eastern standard time).
May 1: Mercury is at greatest westerly elongation (to the sun's right), but in May that means more southerly as well. This is just not a good display for the planet. The moon starts out the month in Virgo, midway between its brightest star, Spica (left of the moon), and Leo's Regulus (right of the moon).
May 2-3: The moon's position on these nights brackets Spica, going from right to left past the star on Friday.
May 4: The total lunar eclipse occurs today over parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa, but not the United States. But the US will get the perigee spring tides. Full moon is at 2:53 p.m. EST, and perigee is about 15 hours earlier. High tides will be affected tonight and Sunday morning.
May 4: The maximum of the Eta Aquarid shower occurs, but the full moon's light will obscure all but the brightest meteors, spoiling this early preview of Halley's comet. This annual springtime shower (about 20 meteors per hour at maximum) is associated with the dust left behind by the Halley comet tail.
May 5: The moon splits Saturn and Antares (Scorpio's bright star) as they rise in the east after dusk; Saturn above, Antares below.
May 6: The moon rises after and below Antares tonight, in the ``13th constellation of the zodiac,'' Ophiucus, which occupies space between Scorpius and Sagittarius.
May 9: Venus entered the morning sky five weeks ago, and tonight it is at greatest brilliancy as a morning star, though not placed as high or rising as early as it can in other circumstances.
May 10: The moon is in the morning sky, near Jupiter in Capricorn.
May 11: Last quarter moon, at 12:34 p.m. EST, is entering Aquarius.
May 15: Saturn becomes an evening star when it reaches opposition from the sun, rising with sunset, setting at sunrise. The bright object near the moon at dawn is Venus.
May 16: Probably the last morning to see the late crescent moon before new moon. Apogee (farthest from earth) occurs later in the day.
May 19: New moon, in Taurus, is at 4:41 p.m. EST.
May 21: Mars is just below the two-day old crescent moon this evening, in Taurus, above Aldebaran.
May 22-23: The moon is passing through Gemini as the crescent fattens. The stars above it on the 23rd are Pollux and Castor.
May 26: Regulus, in Leo, is just below the moon.
May 27: First quarter moon is at 8:00 a.m. EST. Tonight it's in Leo, with Regulus and the curved Lion's head below, Denebola at Leo's tail above the moon.
May 30: The star below the moon is Spica, in Virgo. Last time the moon passed Spica (on the 3rd) was about 271/2 days ago, and the lunar phase was much later.
May 31: The moon ends the month in Libra, three days before full, midway between Spica to its right and Antares to its left.