High above you on May evenings is an one obvious star pattern that just about everyone knows: the Big Dipper. This “Swiss Army Knife of the sky” can help you find many other key springtime stars and constellations. Just download or stream this month’s Sky Tour podcast.

This episode is sponsored by Celestron, manufacturer of high-quality telescopes and an industry leader in developing exciting optical products with revolutionary technologies.

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Listen to this episode on Sky & Telescope’s YouTube channel.

This month begins with the Moon at last quarter, so it’ll be absent from the evening sky until about May 10th. That’s the best time for stargazing, because strong moonlight won’t flood the sky and you’ll see the most stars. And since the only planets visible this month are in the predawn sky, it’ll be a great time for you to get better acquainted with the beautiful tapestry of stars and constellations arrayed overhead on May evenings.

The bright stars in the west after sunset are holdovers from winter’s constellation parade, and in the coming weeks they’ll slowly drift closer to the horizon and disappear from view. Directly above the sunset point, well up as twilight deepens, is the star Capella. Swing your view to its upper left until you come to Castor and Pollux, the side-by-side twins of Gemini. Then look to the lower left of the Twins for the bright star Procyon, sitting on its own in the small constellation Canis Minor, the Little Dog.

Big Dipper and Ursa Major
Stargazers at mid-northern latitudes find the Big Dipper nearly overhead during May evenings. This familiar asterism helps define the large constellation Ursa Major, the Big Bear.

Meanwhile, May evenings feature one obvious star pattern that just about everyone knows: the Big Dipper. To find it, all you have to do is look way up in the north. You should see the Big Dipper looming over you, with its curved handle bent upward and its four-sided bowl apparently overturned as if dumping soup into some imaginary pot.

I think of the Big Dipper as the “Swiss Army Knife of the sky,” because it helps me find so many other key springtime stars. Download or stream this month’s Sky Tour podcast, and I’ll show you all the ways the Big Dipper can lead you to bright stars all over the sky.

And this month’s episode also introduces you to an enormously long constellation — in fact, the largest of all 88 of them — that can be surprisingly challenging to find.

So click on the links here to check out the May episode of our long-running Sky Tour podcast. It’s just 11minutes long — and it’s a fun, easy way to improve what you know about the nighttime sky.y.

Read the full podcast transcript.


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