Our sky map for May 2016 is a free and printable star chart to see stars and constellations in the night sky, from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Sky Map for May 2016
This star chart was created by Jeff DeTray. Each month, we highlight bright stars in the sky, constellations, planets, the Moon, and dark sky events. Follow more of Jeff’s sky adventures at AstronomyBoy.com.
Watch the night sky from your backyard or plan a drive in the countryside away from bright light. Pack some snacks, chairs, and binoculars if you have them!
Click-and-Print Sky Map
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
Sky Map Highlights: May 2016
All About Asterisms
An asterism is an easily recognized star pattern that lies within a constellation. Unlike constellations, asterisms are entirely “unofficial.” There is no international organization or governing body that assigns names to asterisms. Their names have come into popular usage because they are a convenience—an easy way to navigate the sky. If you wish, feel free to identify and name your own asterisms. Who knows? Your names might catch on!
- For a fine example of an asterism, look near the center of this month’s star map for the Keystone, a compact pattern of four stars that lies within the constellation Hercules, the Hero. Hercules is a sprawling constellation, the fifth largest in the sky, but the distinctive shape of the Keystone stands out.
- Above and to the right of the Keystone is the constellation Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. To me, this semicircle of stars looks far more like a tiara than a crown, so the Tiara it is, at least for me.
- Higher in the sky lies Boötes, the Herdsman, whose main stars form an asterism known as the Kite. It’s a sloppy-looking kite to be sure, but the shape is certainly suggestive of a kite, enough so that it can help you to get your bearings to find Boötes. The bright star Arcturus anchors the tail of the Kite.
- Off to the left, look for the Little Dipper asterism, part of the constellation Ursa Minor, the Lesser Bear. At the end of the Dipper’s handle is Polaris, the North Star. From brightly lit suburbs, you’ll see only Polaris and the brighter stars of the Dipper’s bowl. In areas with little or no artificial light, you’ll see the whole Dipper.
- Between the Little Dipper and the Kite slithers the body of Draco, the Dragon, which culminates in the Dragon’s Head, a four-sided asterism that shows up well at a dark location.
- Below the Dragon’s Head, look for two very bright stars that point the way to a fine pair of asterisms, one small and the other quite large. The star Vega, in the small constellation Lyra, the Lyre, achieved notoriety as home to the fictional aliens who sent a message to Earth in the 1997 Jodie Foster film, Contact. Beneath Vega is a small but beautifully symmetrical asterism, the Parallelogram. Its exquisite and geometrically perfect shape is a wonder.
- To the lower left is the bright star Deneb. It sits at the tip of the Northern Cross, which lies on its side at this time of year. Deneb and the Northern Cross are part of the large constellation Cygnus, the Swan. The name Deneb is derived from the Arabic word for “tail”; indeed, Deneb sits at the tail of the Swan.
- The left side of our sky map features the House, an asterism within the constellation Cepheus, the King. Yes, it’s a lopsided house, but no more lopsided than the ones we all draw as children. –
May 2016 Sky Map
Click here or on image below to enlarge (PDF)
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
Far to the right on our map is a very temporary asterism, a triangle composed of the orange-y star Antares and the planets Mars and Saturn. Enjoy this asterism while you can, because Mars is on the move and in another few weeks will travel far from Antares and Saturn. Saturn, which moves much more slowly than Mars, will remain in the vicinity for a few more months, but it too will eventually vacate the area.
Planets are always moving relative to the stars. The very word “planet” means “wanderer” in ancient Greek and was applied to the few celestial objects that early astronomers found to be “wandering” among the never-changing stars.
See our Sky Watch page for more highlights of the monthly sky, courtesy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.