This month sees the evenings grow longer which means 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 which is returning to the evening sky and will be visible low in the west after sunset. It’ll also be joined by Mercury. It’s worth trying to catch a glimpse of Mercury as very few people ever have.
Sun and Moon
|Date||Sunrise (Irish Time)||Sunset (Irish Time)|
Mercury is visible in the west-northwest soon after sunrise for most of the month. At the start of the month, look for it around 30 mins after sunset. By the end of the month it doesn’t set until around 70 mins after sunset. It will be joined by Venus but will be dimmer.
Venus is back in the evening sky in May. To see it, look west-northwest after sunset. At the start of the month it sets around 50 mins after the sun but this increases to around 90 mins by the end of the month. It will also be joined by Mercury but Venus will be brightest. On 12th May Venus is joined by a thin crescent moon.
Mars can be seen early in the evening in the west as a salmon pink colour star. It has gotten a lot dimmer and wont be helped the fact that it is very low by the time the sky gets completely dark. However, it continues to move east though the constellation of Gemini which means it doesn’t disappear into the sun’s glare.
Visible in the early morning sky. It rises about 70 mins before the Sun at the start of the month. It doesn’t get very high but should be obvious in the southeast. Saturn will be nearby with Jupiter being the brightest
Visible in the early morning sky. Appears close and to the west of Jupiter but is dimmer. Look for it in the south-east from around 4am.
Stars and Constellations
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.
The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower peaks on the 6th May 2020 and the Moon is out of the way. It’s not the best meteor shower with a ZHR of 55. However, It may be still worth taking a look though, as these meteors are caused by the dust left by the famous Halley’s Comet.