At the beginning of the month the Sun continues its journey through the constellation of Aries, until the 14th at around 00h00, when it crosses the astronomical border into Taurus. In the northern parts of the UK,
twilight begins to persist all night, and there are no truly dark nights until the end of July. From now on, look out for Noctilucent Clouds, which are thought to be produced as a result of meteors passing through the upper atmosphere. These
thin high clouds of ice crystals still catch the light of the sun, which even at midnight is not far below the northern horizon. Their appearance is that of silvery blue veils low in the northern sky, and may be seen an hour before and after midnight, often
with interesting textures and patterns.
The Moon is at perigee, the point
of closest approach to Earth, at 03h00 on the 6th, and apogee, the furthest distance away from Earth as it can be, takes place at 08h00 on the 18th May.
The Full Moon of
the flowering meadows (Anglo Saxon, Maed Monat) is on the 7th at 10h46, when the Moon is in the constellation of Libra, approaching Zubenelgenubi (alpha Librae).
Last Quarter Moon is on the 14th at 14h03 in Capricornus.
New Moon is on the 22nd at 17h39, the Moon passing 3° south of the Sun in Taurus.
First Quarter at 03h30 on the 30th takes
place in the constellation of Leo, to the east (left) of Regulus (alpha Leonis).
From the 23rd to the 29th, look for earthshine on the night hemisphere of the waxing crescent Moon. Look again for this phenomenon from the 15th to the 20th.
Mercury is an evening object, having passed superior conjunction on the 4th.
You should be able to detect it in the NNE sky from the 12th onwards, low in the bright twilight. A good opportunity to locate the planet takes place on the evenings of the 21st and 22nd, when Mercury is within 2° of the
much brighter Venus. Mercury reaches its greatest elongation east of the Sun early in June, but at the end of May it sets two hours after the Sun, and so should be readily visible using binoculars. On the evening of the 24th, the young crescent
Moon is in the vicinity of the two planets, both of which lie above the Moon. All are within a radius of 5°.
At the beginning of May Venus sets four hours after the Sun. However, at the end of the month the planets sets with the Sun; its inferior conjunction being on the 3rd of June. Therefore during May
the planet appears to be moving rapidly in towards the Sun. In binoculars it is possible to detect the crescent phase which the planet exhibits. However, your binoculars must be firmly fixed and well-focussed in order to see the tiny but brilliant crescent.
As mentioned above, Venus lies near to the crescent Moon and Mercury on the 23rd.
Mars is a morning object increasing in magnitude from +0.4 at the beginning of the month to 0.0 at the end. The planet continues to move eastwards from Capricornus into Aquarius, crossing the boundary between
the two on the 9th. During the early morning of the 15th, the Moon, just past last quarter, passes a couple of degrees south of Mars in Aqiuarius in the brightening morning twilight.
Jupiter rises just after 01h at the beginning of May, and before midnight at the month’s end. It
may be seen low in the early morning sky on the eastern part of Sagittarius. Jupiter is the brightest object in the morning sky at this time unless the Moon is in the sky, of course. It culminates, ie crosses the south meridian, just before 04h, as the Sun
is rising. The bright star-like object 5° to the left of Jupiter is Saturn; their comparative magnitudes are -2.5 (Jupiter) and +0.5 (Saturn). The waning gibbous Moon may be seen approaching Jupiter on the 12th.
If you look through well focussed, firmly fixed binoculars, you will see the points of light, which are Jupiter’s Galilean satellites, slowly changing their positions on a nightly basis.
Saturn is visible in the morning sky and lies in
Capricornus near to its western boundary with Sagittarius. Together with Jupiter, both gas giants are in the same part of the sky, separated by some 4° (eight moon-widths). The northern surface of the rings continues to be well presented towards the Earth
and are visible through the smallest telescope. If you wish to locate Titan, the largest of the planet’s satellites at visual magnitude +8, then look west of the planet on the 9th, 10th, 25th and 26th, when
Titan’ greatest western elongation of two arc minutes occurs, and to the east of Saturn on the 4th and 5th, and again on the 20th and 21st, when the greatest elongation east of the planet takes place. During
the morning of the 13th, the gibbous waning Moon lies 6° to the lower left of Saturn as they are rising at around 02h00.
Uranus, in western Aries, and Neptune in
eastern Aquarius near the Pisces border, are not suitably placed for observation during this month when twilight shortens the nights.
If you look at the sky in the early morning of the 6th and the 7th from 02h, you may see an increase in the number of shooting stars visible, until morning twilight
becomes too bright. Earth is crossing the path of Halley’s comet, and tiny particles, debris from this famous ‘dirty snowball’ hit the upper atmosphere as the Eta-Aquarid meteors. This meteor stream is best observed from
the southern hemisphere. The radiant, from which the meteors appear to come, is such, together with the twilight at this time of the year that very few eta-Aquarids are likely to be seen at the latitude of Scarborough in the northern hemisphere.
Constellations visible in the south around midnight, mid-month, are
as follows: Libra, Scorpius, Serpens Caput (the serpent’s head) and Corona Borealis.
All times are GMT 1° is one finger width at arm’s length.
All times are in UT (GMT)
The phenomena of the month : MAY, 2020
are given in UT for SCARBOROUGH (0° 25' 0" W, 54° 16' 3" N, zone 0 = UT).
Date Hour Description of the phenomenon
yyyy mm dd hh:mm
2020 05 01 10:57 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 05 02 04:10 Minimum of the variable star
Algol (beta Persei)
2020 05 03 18:45 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 05 03 21:26 Beginning of occultation of 3-nu Vir
(magn. = 4.04)
2020 05 03 22:10 End of occultation of 3-nu Vir (magn. = 4.04)
2020 05 04 21:41 SUPERIOR CONJUNCTION of Mercury with
the Sun (geoc. dist. centre to centre = 0.1°)
2020 05 05 00:59 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 05 05 14:56
Meteor shower : Eta Aquarids (50 meteors/hour at zenith; duration = 38.0 days)
2020 05 05 22:49 Close encounter between the Moon and Spica (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 6.0°)
2020 05 05 23:16 Comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS at its perihelion (dist. to the Sun = 1.615 AU; magn. = 8.2)
2020 05 06 03:03 Moon at perigee (geocentric
dist. = 359654 km)
2020 05 07 10:45 FULL MOON
2020 05 07 21:48 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 05 08 05:10 Meteor shower : Eta Lyrids (3 meteors/hour at zenith; duration = 11.0 days)
2020 05 08 15:11 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 05 08 23:59 Close encounter between the Moon and Antares (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 5.4°)
2020 05 09 03:32 Maximum of the
variable star delta Cephei
2020 05 10 04:00 Mercury at its perihelion (distance to the Sun = 0.30750 AU)
2020 05 10 09:14 Maximum
of the variable star zeta Gemini
2020 05 10 18:37 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 05 11 00:34 Minimum of the
variable star beta Lyrae
2020 05 11 22:24 Opposition of the asteroid 349 Dembowska with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 3.140 AU; magn. = 10.2)
13 15:26 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 05 14 12:20 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 05 14
14:03 LAST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2020 05 15 03:44 Close encounter between the Moon and Mars (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 3.5°)
05 15 19:25 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 05 16 12:15 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 05 18
07:45 Moon at apogee (geocentric dist. = 405583 km)
2020 05 19 09:04 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 05 19 21:07
Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 05 20 12:51 Maximum of the variable star zeta Gemini
2020 05 22 05:53 Minimum of the
variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 05 22 09:42 Close encounter between Mercury and Venus (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 0.9°)
22 17:39 NEW MOON
2020 05 22 23:38 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 05 23 04:47 Opposition of the asteroid
42 Isis with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.232 AU; magn. = 10.0)
2020 05 23 23:07 Minimum of the variable star beta Lyrae
2020 05 25 02:42
Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 05 25 05:54 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 05 27 20:38 Close
encounter between the Moon and M 44 (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 1.0°)
2020 05 27 23:31 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
05 30 03:30 FIRST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2020 05 30 03:52 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 05 30 11:59
Close encounter between Mercury and M 35 (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 1.2°)
2020 05 30 14:41 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
05 30 16:28 Maximum of the variable star zeta Gemini
2020 05 30 20:20 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
courtesy of: CoelixApex software.