What to See in the Sky in May 2020?

This month sees the evenings growing longer which means there are less hours of darkness. However, as we are entering the summer, evenings are also getting warmer which makes it more comfortable to go out and enjoy the sky. This month, the highlight will be Venus. For the last few months, Venus has been shining steadily in the West long after sunset but that is about to change. This will be the last opportunity to enjoy it in the evening sky until Autumn 2021.

Sun and Moon

DateSunrise (Irish Time)Sunset (Irish Time)
01/05/202006:0721:05
15/05/202005:4321:28
31/05/202005:2321:49
Sunrise and sunset times
Moon PhaseDate
Full Moon07/05/2020
Third quarter14/05/2020
New Moon22/05/2020
First quarter30/05/2020
Moon phases

Planets

Mercury

Visible after 6th May in the evening sky very soon after sunset in the West. Mercury is hard to see as it is so close to the Sun. Make sure the Sun has set before looking for it. It is close to Venus on 21st and 22nd of May which makes it easier to find. On the evening of the 24th May the crescent moon, Venus and Mercury are all close, making a lovely sight.

Venus

This is the last month to see Venus in the evening sky until Autumn 2021. In the second half of this year Venus will be visible only in the morning sky. Venus will still be high in the West after sunset this month. As the month goes on it very quickly gets lower in the sky. By the end of the month it will set only 30 mins after the Sun. If you have a telescope it will look particularly beautiful. It looks like a small crescent moon through a telescope and as the month progresses they crescent will become slimmer and slimmer. At the end of the month it will be just 2% illuminated.

Mars

Visible low in the morning sky. It will look like an orange star. Look for it in the South-East after around 4 am at the start of the month and from around 3 am at the end of the month.

Jupiter

Visible in the early morning sky. Very bright and appears close to Saturn which is dimmer. Look for it in the South-East from around 3.30 am onward at the start of the month or 1.30 am onward at the end.

Saturn

Visible in the early morning sky. Appears close to Jupiter but is dimmer. Look for it in the South-East from around 3.30 am onward at the start of the month or 1.30 am onward at the end.

Stars and Constellations

Sky chart for May 2020 23:00 15/05/2020

The above sky chart is for 23:00 on 15/05/2020. You can click on the chart to open a new tab and bring you to Heavens Above. On this website you can generate a custom chart for the time and date you wish. As we can see, this month the winter constellations are gone and the spring constellations of Leo (the lion), Bootes (the herdsman) and Virgo (the virgin) take prominence in the South. An interesting fact about the constellation of Virgo is that the galaxy M87 is located in Virgo. M87 contains the supermassive black hole which astronomers managed to image the shadow of in 2019.

If we look directly overhead we can see Ursa Major (the Bear), also known as the plough and out to the west we have Gemini (the twins) and Auriga (the charioteer). Over in the east we can see the first signs of the summer constellations. Cygnus (the swan), Lyra (the liar) and Aquila (the eagle). The brightest stars in these constellations are Deneb, Vega and Altair and they make up the Summer Triangle which we will see rise overhead in June and July. Hercules (the Hunter) is also to the east at this time of year.

Comets

We had great hopes for Comet C/2019 Y4 Atlas but unfortunately, it has now broken up. There is a new comet though which is just about visible to the naked eye. Comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN) was discovered on 25th March 2020. The only problem is that it is only going to be visible for us in the northern hemisphere at the very end of the month and even then it will be very low down.

Meteor Showers

The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower peaks on the 7th May 2020 but the Moon is full and bright and will spoil the view. It may be still worth taking a look though as these meteors are caused by the dust left by the famous Halley’s Comet.

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