All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book
Nightscenes 2018 which is available to order from our web shop and all good book stores! Note we can no longer supply printed copies as we’ve run out but a pdf version is now available from our web shop.
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.
Venus dominates the early evening twilight but now Jupiter reaches opposition this month and becomes viewable all night. Ceres is well placed to view in the evenings, passing close to Kappa Leo on the 18th. Saturn and minor planet Vesta are mainly morning targets but are now rising just after midnight by mid month . Vesta is stationary on the 8th. Mars is next and during the month moves from Sagittarius into Capricornus still low in the SE at the end of the month as morning twilight begins. Neptune is creeping up away from the solar glare and has around an hour of visibility towards the end of the month. Uranus languishes in the morning twilight and so remains difficult to view. Mercury is also too low and deep in bright morning twilight all month so not easily viewable. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on the 6th but is spoiled by moonlight.
It’s Jupiter time! The giant planet reaches opposition on May 9th and is then viewable all night as it rises as the Sun sets and sets as the Sun rises. It is bright at mag -
In a 10x50 binocular you can just see it is a disk and the four Galilean moons can be spotted with care. It helps to put the binocular on a tripod for stability.
In a small telescope Jupiter shows the two major bands, North Equatorial and South Equatorial belts and with care you may even glimpse the Great Red Spot, although it can often look like a pale oval in small instruments. Larger telescopes will pick out more finer banding, plumes and other subtle details making the planet very rewarding to view along with the motions of the Galilean moons.
The Full Moon lies close to Jupiter on the 1st. This also illustrates the point that a Full Moon is actually at opposition (to the Sun) so as Jupiter is also close to opposition, then they are bound to be reasonably close in the sky. The Moon is again near Jupiter on the 27th but will not be Full. Both are shown on the same chart (right) with May 1st set for 1am and May 27th for 11pm. As an added bonus Jupiter passes north of, and very close to, mag 5.2 Nu Libra on the 3rd. For a day or so either side of that date the star looks like an addition to the Galilean moons, so don’t think that Jupiter has gained a new moon!
Venus remains in the evening twilight and passes from Taurus into Gemini. During the month it lies close to Tau (t) Taurus on the 4th and then on the 8th it lies very close to the mag 6.2 star cluster NGC 1746. It passes between Beta and Zeta Taurus on the 13th /14th and the slim Crescent Moon joins Venus in the evening twilight of the 17th for a stunning sight. Venus then passes the wonderful star cluster M35 on the evenings of the 20th & 21st before lying very close to Epsilon Gemini on the 27th. Meanwhile Venus remains in the WNW evening twilight and manages to creep onto our all sky monthly chart for May. Make sure you look out for it with the naked eye, binocular and telescope if you have one.
The Moon occults Iota Capricornus on May 8th (right) but although the vast majority of the UK gets to watch it, the very northern tip of Scotland sees a close miss whilst only the eastern half of Northern Ireland and the eastern coast of Eire get to see it just as the Moon rises. For the rest of N. Ireland and Eire the Moon is below the horizon or just about to rise as it happens. For most areas look towards the SE from 3am for moonrise and then the disappearance. All areas get to see the reappearance on the dark limb and should begin looking out for it from 3:45am onwards depending on where you are.
Finally for this month don't forget to try for the Eta Aquariids meteor shower when it peaks on May 6th. 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 here shows how the radiant moves through Aquarius with the peak indicated by the ‘star’. The chart is set for 4am looking East to SE and the Moon will spoil the view but have a go as you may get lucky!
Also look out for the following:
May 2nd Moon lies above Antares and Scorpius in the morning
May 5th Moon lies to left of Saturn and near Teaspoon in the morning
May 6th Moon lies above Mars this morning
May 18th Dwarf planet Ceres lies close to Kappa Leo this evening
May 21st Almost first quarter Moon lies close to Regulus tonight
May 24th Moon lies close to Porrima tonight
May 25th Moon lies above Spica this evening
May 29th Full Moon rises to upper left of Antares in the late evening
May 31st Moon rises with Saturn below it in late evening
Clear skies and happy sky watching.
The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2018
Webmaster © Paul L Money 2018
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