Constellations, deep-sky objects, planets and events, Tonight’s Sky, Highlights of the May Sky
Venus makes its descent into the western horizon soon after sunset. Act quickly to catch a glimpse of it with a telescope.
Saturn and Mars grace the southern sky in the evening. Watch them move into the west as the night progresses.
Constellations and Deep-Sky Objects
Looking toward the south, we’ve turned away from the crowded center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Thus we see farther into the universe.
The large constellation Virgo fills the southern sky in the late evening. One of the zodiacal constellations of ancient times, Virgo honors the life-giving virtues of women.
Using a pair of binoculars, visit the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies. These tiny smudges of light are galaxies, far away from our own Milky Way, each aglow with the light of billions of stars.
The Sombrero Galaxy, M104, lies in the southern part of Virgo. Its dark dust lane makes it look like a large hat, hence its name.
Two smaller constellations lie above Virgo.
Coma Berenices honors a queen who gave her long hair to the gods to ensure her husband’s safe return from war. M64, a spiral galaxy, can be found tangled in Berenice’s Hair.
Canes Venatici represents the hunting dogs of the gods. The brightest star in Canes Venatici is Cor Caroli, the Heart of Charles, named for Charles 1 of England.
M51, in Canes Venatici, is known as the Whirlpool Galaxy. It is one of the most beautiful face-on spirals in the sky.
The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on the morning of May 6th. Look toward the eastern sky after midnight to see up to 10 meteors per hour. The full Moon may wash out all but the brightest meteors.
On May 20th, sky watchers in southern China, Japan, and the western United States will be treated to an annular solar eclipse. Observers in other parts of eastern Asia and most of North America will see this event as a partial eclipse.
The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.
Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute, Office of Public Outreach
Starfield images created with Stellarium
Mythological constellation forms from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive
Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, courtesy of the United States Naval Observatory
Venus image courtesy of Mario Weigand
Saturn image courtesy of John Endreson
Mars image courtesy of Matt Wedel
Virgo Cluster image based on image courtesy of NOAO/AURA/NSF
M104, M64, and M51 images courtesy of the MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network
Annular solar eclipse images courtesy of Larry Hubble and Leo Heppner
Partial solar eclipse image courtesy of Franklin A. Holub
Narrated by Nancy Calo
Music written by Jonn Serrie
Production: Lucy Albert, Greg Bacon, John Bintz, John Godfrey, and Vanessa Thomas