Tour May’s Sky: Evening Planets Align

These days, the Sun doesn’t set until nearly 8 o’clock, so it’s not really dark until well after dinnertime. May opens with the Moon just making its entrance into the evening sky. On the 1st, look for a thin crescent low in the west soon after sunset.

Saturn and Mars hug the ecliptic

Saturn, Mars, and all the bright planets are never far from the ecliptic, which is the plane of Earth's orbit projected onto the night sky. It also traces the Sun's path among the stars.
Sky & Telescope Diagram

This month you have a chance to see four planets — Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn — all strung along the ecliptic (the Sun's path among the stars) in the evening sky. Look for Mercury low in the west about 45 minutes after the Sun sets (and above that point). The best days to spot it will be roughly the last half of May, especially around the 22nd.

Jupiter is easy to find. It’s over in the west about halfway up at sunset. It outshines Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, and all the stars around it. Above Jupiter, about one fist away, are the twins of Gemini, with Pollux on the left and Castor on the right. To Jupiter’s left, by about two fists, is the star Procyon, in Canis Minor, the Little Dog. To its right, three fists away, is Capella, the brightest star in the constellation Auriga.

Bonus: this month has the potential for a dramatic meteor shower — one that could spawn anywhere from 100 to an amazing 1,000 shooting stars per hour! And its the peak is well timed for North Americans.

To get the details about these celestial fireworks — and many more sky sights for May — listen to this month's 7½-minute-long audio Sky Tour:


Download the podcast here.


10 thoughts on “Tour May’s Sky: Evening Planets Align

  1. Pingback: Tour May’s Sky: Evening Planets Align

  2. Steve

    Thanks so much for the very informative pod cast. I have been watching the planets from my back yard for weeks now and, for the first time have been able to notice the ecliptic as the planets rise and sink from east to west. For me as a novice this is a great discovery. I’m hoping this will help me to learn star hopping as well as the alignment of the planets and the good stuff that lies on either side of the ecliptic. Thanks again.

  3. Fred-Wells

    Really enjoyed the podcast (as always) but with this new format I can only play it from the website and cannot find a link to allow me to download it to listen to on my MP3 player at a later date. What am I doing wrong? Many thanks in advance & clear skies to all.

    1. Rick-Hughes

      I’d rather have an RSS feed that would work with the podcatcher app on my phone. That is the way everybody else does it and it used to work that way here. I always listen to podcasts that are already on my phone and I automatically got the podcast before. Probably won’t be getting it now.

  4. Taurus

    Thank you. My first read on this site. Came across accidentally while searching, and now I’m really happy this happened. As a novice with no telescope, Stellarium taught me a lot of things in a short time and I’m very glad that I now have Sky&Telescope as a live complement with lots of bright people here. Now I have the best both worlds.
    As an introvert, my several month long obsession with the software has been fantastic, but I have to admit that it was getting dull too. Not having ever talked about such subjects in depth with anyone and learning from them before, listening to this very informative podcast further enlivened and exited my lonely passion.

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