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Night Sky Guide May 2014

Tonight’s Sky: May 2014

Your guide to constellations, deep-sky objects, planets and events, Tonight’s Sky, Highlights of the May Sky

Evening Planets

As night falls, Saturn and Mars grace the eastern sky.
Both planets will remain in the sky well into the early morning hours.
On May 10th, Saturn makes its closest approach to Earth, which is the best time to see the ringed planet and its moons.
Elusive Mercury appears above the western horizon as theSun sets. The low-lying planet will be a challenge to spot in early May, but will stray higher above the horizon later in the month.
Above Mercury lies Jupiter. Use a telescope to spot a few of its moons.

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 farthe 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.

Morning Planets

Look to the east to find a blazing Venus rising before the Sun. Aim a telescope at the planet to see its shape.


The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower returns this month. During the peak, on the night of May 5th to 6th, expect to see up to 10 meteors per hour. Look for them shooting from the east after midnight.
In late May, an unnamed meteor shower could become a meteor storm as Earth passes through multiple debris streams left by Comet 209P/LINEAR.
In the pre-dawn hours of May 24th, skywatchers could see a hundred or more meteors per hour.
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
Saturn image courtesy of John Endreson
Mars image courtesy of Matt Wedel
Mercury and Venus images courtesy of Mario Weigand
Jupiter image courtesy of Todd Gross
Virgo Cluster image based on image courtesy of NOAO/AURA/NSF
M104, M64, and M51 images courtesy of the MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network
Narrated by Nancy Calo
Music written by Jonn Serrie
Lucy Albert, Greg Bacon, John Bintz, John Godfrey, and
Vanessa Thomas


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