The three brightest planets — Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn — grace our evening skies this month. Mercury makes an appearance too!
This month features a veritable planet parade in the evening sky. Venus, Mercury, and Saturn all put in what are in some ways their best appearances of the year. And Jupiter, far to Venus’s upper left, closes the gap between them dramatically over the course of the month.
It's a special month for Saturn, because it reaches opposition on May 22nd. This means it's opposite the Sun in the sky, rising at sunset and cruising overhead all night until setting near sunrise. Look for it climbing low in the southeast as darkness deepens, poking at one of the eyes of Scorpius.
Meanwhile, the Big Dipper looms overhead as darkness falls. Its curved handle is bent upward, and its four-sided bowl is apparently overturned — as if dumping soup into some imaginary pot.
There's lots more to see by eye in the May evening sky. To get a personally guided your, download our 7½-minute-long stargazing podcast below.
There's no better guide to what's going on in nighttime sky than the May issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.