All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book NightScenes 2017.
Click on the monthly image to get a larger high resolution view of the night sky set for 53° N (Horncastle, England) but is usable for the UK and Eire. All charts are set for the 1st of the month at 22:00 GMT (10pm) and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.
Solar System quick summary
For most charts see the buttons at the top for various planets etc.. Charts & images in the text can be clicked to give a larger view.
Mars finally slides down into the encroaching evening twilight remaining visible until months end. Likewise Vesta is also dropping lower as it moves through Cancer and passing north of M44 on May 22nd but is still viewable in a binocular. This leaves Jupiter as the 'King' of the evenings in central Virgo and well placed to view. Saturn is now rising just after midnight at the start of the month and at the end of May rises by 22:30 BST. Also towards the end of the month Neptune creeps out of the morning twilight for an hour whilst Venus is also low in the morning twilight from mid month. Uranus and Mercury are lost in the bright twilight. The end of the month seems busy as comet C/2015 V2 (Johnson) may brighten to mag 7 as it moves through Bootes, see the comet tab above. The Eta Aquarids meteor shower peaks on May 6th in the early hours of the morning but is not best seen from the Northern Hemisphere. Meanwhile another comet: Comet 41P/Tuttle-
Catch Mars in its finale as it finally succumbs to the brightening evening twilight sky. At the start of May it can briefly be seen in almost dark skies as it moves up and away from M45 and the Hyades but the sky is now brightening quicker than Mars can move against the backdrop of stars and it slides down into the twilight by the end of the month. The slim crescent Moon lies off to its right on the 27th as shown here with the chart set for 22:00 BST. Mars is shown every two days much brighter than it is for real so make sure the sun has set and seek out Mars before its gone for several months, lost in the solar glare.
Ahead of Mars and a little higher along the ecliptic we can still follow Vesta in a binocular as it shines at mag 8 all month. It passes under a nice 'line' of 6th mag stars (marked on the chart) from the 12th to 18th then on the 22nd it lies north of the wonderful open cluster M44, the Beehive cluster. You should be able to keep track of Vesta as it slowly drops into the twilight over the next couple of months so check out the Asteroids tab at top for more charts.
Jupiter now rides high in the evenings and is the brightest naked eye planet in the evening sky. On the 7th the moon lies above it so you can't mistake which 'star' is actually the planet! The chart here shows the moon on the 7th and 8th as it lies above Jupiter then next evening it is to the upper left of Spica, the brightest star of Virgo. Jupiter also moves just enough to be noticeable on the chart and the two extra insets show the positions of the Galilean moons on both dates at around 22:30 BST. Use a binocular or small telescope to spot them.
Now that Saturn is rising in the late evening before midnight mid month, we can start to look out for it as it heads towards opposition next month. It lies just above the ecliptic in Sagittarius but moves into Ophiuchus from the 19th. Before then, on the 13th into the morning of the 14th just after midnight the Moon lies above Saturn as shown here at left. Look towards the SE horizon as they rise and climb into the sky together. The Galactic bulge lies near here as well but the bright moonlight will wash it out however, look to this region once the moon is out of the way and see if you can spot some of the nebulae and clusters in this region that are on the chart found in the Jupiter-
The moon's phase shrinks as it continues on its path around the earth and on the 22nd it lies just above the horizon due East with Venus to its left for a great view in bright twilight. The moon has plenty of detail if you use a telescope but point it at Venus and you can see the phase of Venus is less than half full -
Finally for this month don't forget to try for the Eta Aquariids Meteor shower when it peaks on May 5th. You'll need to look an hour or so before sunrise so there isn't much time but they can appear quite long so worth looking out for if you like early mornings! The view below shows how the radiant moves through Aquarius with the peak indicated by the orange ’star’. The chart is set for 4am looking East to SE and the moon will have set roughly half an hour earlier giving a chance to spot them.
Also look out for the following:
May 5th Mars lies 6 degrees from Aldebaran this evening
May 10th Full Moon forms triangle with Alpha and Beta Librae (evening)
May 11th Moon lies above Beta Scorpii as they rise (late evening)
May 12th Moon rises to the left of Antares (late evening)
May 17th Moon lines up below Alpha and Beta Capricorni (morning)
May 20th Moon forms triangle with Neptune and Lambda Aquarii (morning)
May 30th Crescent moon lies below M44 setting just after midnight
May 31st Crescent Moon lies close to Regulus (evening)
Clear skies and happy sky watching.
The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2017 AD
Webmaster © Paul L Money 2017
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