The moon begins this month poised for three rapid-fire events: in the early morning of the 2nd, Venus is 4 degrees north, and the minor planet Vesta is 0.2 degrees south (an occultation in the Southern Hemisphere); and Mercury is 3 degrees north much later in the day. The moon is new on the 4th. On the 7th, Mars is 3 degrees north of a very slender Luna. On the 10th, the moon slides through the Beehive Cluster (M44) in the western evening sky. Full moon is on the 18th, and a day later, minor planet Ceres is occulted in the extreme south (Antarctica). On the 20th, Jupiter is less than 2 degrees south of the moon; on the 22nd, Saturn is 0.5 degrees north, and Pluto is 0.1 degrees south – both events are occultations in far distant parts of the world. As the month closes, minor planet Vesta and Uranus are within 0.6 and 5 degrees, respectively.
Mercury is rounding in its orbit, reaching superior conjunction (behind the sun) on the 21st; late in the month, the speedy planet reappears in the western evening sky where it will remain all through June. Close by the moon on the 3rd.
Venus is low in the eastern morning sky, just before dawn. The moon passes by on the 2nd, and Uranus is 1.2 degrees north on the 18th.
Mars gets closer and closer to the Sun, so becomes a non-participant at month-end. However, on the 7th, the moon is just 3 degrees south.
Jupiter reaches opposition on June 10, so is quite prominent in the southern sky for most of the night throughout May. The waning gibbous moon passes glides by on the 20th, only 1.7 degrees away.
Saturn is retrograding (appearing to move westward) and is visible through most of the night in Sagittarius. The moon shares Saturn’s spotlight on the 22nd.
Uranus is not visible during the first half of May, reappearing about mid-month. The moon is close by on the 31st.
Neptune is in the morning sky for a brief while before sunup.
The eta Aquariid meteor shower peaks on May 6 in the early morning. The moon won’t interfere with this shower.
James Edgar has had an interest in the night sky all his life. He joined The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000, was National President for two terms, is now the Editor of the renowned Observer’s Handbook, and Production Manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal. The IAU named asteroid 1995 XC5 “(22421) Jamesedgar” in his honour.