Culture

The Sky Above You – May 2020

May 2020 star mapBy Duncan Lunan

The Moon will be Full on May 7th, and it will be a Supermoon, Full when near its closest to Earth for the month, but slightly further away and less bright than it was in April.  The Moon will be New on May 22nd.

The planet Mercury will be at superior conjunction behind the Sun on May 4th and it will become visible to the lower right of Venus in the evening sky around May 15th, passing below Venus on the 21st and to its left on the 22nd.

Venus remains bright but ever-lower in the evening sky through May, just off our map in Taurus, below the constellation Auriga in the north-west.   The Moon is near Venus on May 24th.

Mars is in Capricornus and in May it travels into Aquarius, growing in brightness.  The Moon is near Mars on May 15th.

Jupiter rises in Sagittarius at 1 a.m., about the same time as Saturn.  Its motion relative to the Earth makes it appear ‘stationary’ on May 14th, after which it will begin to move westward as it’s overtaken by the Earth.   By the end of the month Jupiter will be rising soon after midnight BST.  The crescent Moon is near Jupiter and Saturn on May 12th and 13th.

Saturn is close to Jupiter throughout, as above, and reaches its stationary point on May 11th.

Uranus is too close to the Sun to be visible in May, after conjunction behind it on April 26th.

Neptune in Aquarius rises about 3 a.m. in May.

The eta Aquarid meteor shower from Halley’s Comet peaks on 5th to 6th May, but moonlight will spoil it this year.

Comet ATLAS

Soon after last month’s column went to press, there arose a possibility of a bright comet during April.   Comet ATLAS, named after the asteroid-detecting telescope which discovered it, was heading sunwards and growing brighter at an unexpected rate.   Then in Ursa Major, it’s been in the faint constellation Camelopardalis  (too faint for our map, but to the right of the Plough)  for most of April.  By mid-April it had broken into three pieces, as it crossed the orbit of Mars, so there’s no certainty about how bright it will become;  as Patrick Moore was fond of saying, “comets are like cats.  They have tails, and nobody knows what they’ll do next”.  By May 15th it will be level with the little triangle of ‘the Kids’ in Auriga  (next to Capella), to the right of them as it descends towards the northwest horizon, and we can only wait to see how bright it is by then.

May 2020 star map

Duncan Lunan’s latest book “From the Moon to the Stars”, a collection of space travel stories old and new relating to the Moon and Project Apollo, illustrated by Sydney Jordan, is now available from the publishers at https://othersidebooks.wordpress.com, as well as on Amazon or through booksellers;  details of that and his other books are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.

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