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S&T: Lauren Darby

Is there a "best" time of year to do some stargazing? Winters can be too cold and summers too hot. But May offers pleasant evening temperatures and not too many annoying insects.

When you step outside, you'll find that the Sun doesn't set until nearly 8 p.m. (in the Northern Hemisphere), and so the sky doesn't get good and dark until about 9 p.m.

This month offers a chance to see all five bright planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn — though not all at once. Mercury lingers low in the west as May begins (catch it early!), and Saturn is high up all month. Mars, Venus, and Jupiter are lined up in the east before dawn.

Meanwhile, spring's "cosmic critters," led by Leo and Ursa Major, the Big Bear, dominate the evening sky.

To get a personally guided tour of these sights and others, hosted by Kelly Beatty, S&T's senior contributing editor, download this month's audio sky tour to your iPod or other handheld device — or just use your computer to play it.


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