Tour May’s Sky: Jupiter Leads the Way

Sky & Telescope's astronomy podcast takes you on a guided tour of the night sky. Watch for Mars and Saturn near Scorpius before dawn and Jupiter near Leo after sunset.

If you can get outside about an hour before sunrise, which means between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m., depending on your location, you’ll spot a nice triangle of bright stars rather low in the south. But two of those beacons are planets: Saturn is at top and Mars at the right. Down at the bottom is Antares, the heart of Scorpius.

On May 22nd, Mars is at opposition and "just" 47½ million miles from Earth — closer than it's been for 11 years. On that date Mars is opposite the Sun in the sky, so it sets in the west as the Sun rises . . . and it rises in the east as the Sun sets.

Evening sky on May 8th

A thin crescent Moon joins Betelgeuse and Aldebaran shortly after sunset on May 8th.
Sky & Telescope diagram

Jupiter is high up at nightfall and unmistakably bright. It’s positioned directly below the easy-to-spot constellation of Leo, the Lion, with Regulus to Jupiter’s right by about the width of your clenched fist. Well to Jupiter’s left, about four fists away, is the bright star Spica, the anchor star in the constellation Virgo, the Maiden.

Far to Jupiter’s right, halfway up in the west, are the twins of Gemini, with Pollux on the left and Castor on the right. And to their right, about three fists away, is Capella, a name derived from the Latin word for goat. It’s the brightest star in the constellation Auriga, who in Roman mythology is a charioteer who moonlights as a goatherder.

To get a personally guided tour of these night-sky sights and others overhead during May, download our 7½-minute-long astronomy podcast below.


There's no better guide to what's going on in nighttime sky than SkyWatch 2016, a yearlong guide prepared by the editors of Sky & Telescope magazine.