Some daily events in the changing sky for May 16 – 24.
Friday, May 16
Saturday, May 17
Sunday, May 18
Monday, May 19
Tuesday, May 20
Wednesday, May 21
Thursday, May 22
Friday, May 23
Saturday, May 24
Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly foldout map in each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of maps; the standards are Sky Atlas 2000.0 or the smaller Pocket Sky Atlas) and good deep-sky guidebooks (such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the even more detailed Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic Burnham's Celestial Handbook). Read how to use them effectively.
More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury is still up in evening twilight, but it's fading fast now: from magnitude +0.6 on May 16th to +2.1 on the 24th. So look for it early in the week. It's fairly low in the west-northwest as twilight deepens. See article.
Venus is hidden in the glare of the Sun. It will stay there for months.
Mars (magnitude +1.4, in Cancer) shines high in the west after dark, off to the upper left of the Castor-and-Pollux couple. Each week Mars is moving farther away from them and closer to the Saturn-and-Regulus couple, still well off to Mars's upper left. They'll meet up for a close get-together in early July.
On the evenings of May 22nd and 23rd, Mars is right inside the Beehive star cluster. See the May Sky & Telescope, page 72.
In a telescope, Mars is a minuscule 5.2 arcseconds wide — a very tiny blob.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.5, in eastern Sagittarius) rises around midnight daylight saving time, left of the Sagittarius Teapot. It's highest in the south before dawn. (The table of Jupiter's satellite phenomena in the May Sky & Telescope is incorrect; use this corrected version.)
Saturn glows high in the southwest after dark, just 2.4° from fainter Regulus (magnitude +1.4). They're quite the eye-catching couple. Each week now, they're gradually pulling a little farther apart.
Telescope users: can you see the pair of white storms on Saturn? How big a telescope do you need? To predict when they'll be turned into view (which happens at least twice a day), see the picture caption at the bottom of this page.
This week Saturn is at eastern quadrature, 90° east of the Sun. So this is when its shadow is cast most sideways onto its rings. See our Saturn observing guide in the April Sky & Telescope, page 66.
Uranus and Neptune (magnitudes 6 and 8, respectively, in Aquarius and Capricornus) are in the east and southeast just before dawn.
Pluto (magnitude 14.0, in northwestern Sagittarius) is well up in the southeast after midnight. If you've got a big scope and ambition to match, use our article and finder chart.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon or zenith — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
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