Sky Watch: May 2018

Jupiter at Opposition, Venus Conjunction, & More

Bob Berman
Jupiter Planet

Welcome to the May 2018 Sky Watch!  This month, Jupiter is king of the night sky, reaching opposition on May 8–9. See what to look for in the night sky tonight, including bright planets, the full Moon, and more celestial highlights.

Sky Watch May 2018

by Bob Berman, as featured in The 2018 Old Farmer’s Almanac

What’s in May’s night sky? Here are the highlights:

May 2018 is all about Jupiter!

Jupiter is easily recognized as the most brilliant “star” in the midnight sky right now and it’s out all night. While Venus is technically brighter, it sets 15 minutes (or less) after sunset, disappearing beneath the horizon in the western skies.

Brilliant Jupiter now rises at 9:00 P.M. and is visible the rest of the night. The Giant Planet will shine in front of the constellation Libra.

Look for the crescent Moon passing to the left of Jupiter on the 1st of May.

Jupiter Opposition

Jupiter comes to opposition on May 8–9 and shines at its brightest of the year.  

By opposition, astronomers mean that Earth is passing in between the Sun and Jupiter; this places Jupiter opposite the Sun in the Earth’s sky.

The event occurs at 9 P.M. Eastern Time on May 8. (Click here to translate Jupiter’s opposition time to your time zone).

Jupiter comes to opposition about every 13 months, and always falls near its closest approach to Earth. In 2018, Jupiter reaches its closest point to early on May 10, about one and a half day after opposition.

Venus

Venus starts May setting very low in the west soon after sunset. However, every evening this month, the brightest planet stays out longer to party.

The Moon hovers to the left of Venus on the 17th.

If the crescent seem extra big and bright, that’s because it is! The Moon is at perigee–closest to Earth. This makes the Moon 5% wider and almost 11% brighter than average crescent moons of the same phase. You’ve probably heard the term “supermoon” applied to full Moons. It applies to crescents as well!

By the end of May, in the early dusk, look for Venus will be shining higher in the west and Jupiter shining in the east—two bright beacons of the night sky.

Saturn and Mars

The planets Saturn and Mars sparkle very late at night into the predawn hours.

The Moon passes between Mars and Saturn on the 5th, then hovers to the left of Venus on the 17th, and is to the left of Jupiter on the 27th.

Click here for a free sky map to navigate MAY’s night sky!

Source: 

The 2018 Old Farmer's Almanac

Reader Comments

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Monthly Sky Watch Charts

I would be very interested is having a monthly Sky Watch chart of the CURRENT month available. Is there some reason why you do not post the current month?

Otherwise, the information provided on these charts has enabled me to locate some of the more prominent stars for the first time in my life. This information is a very useful tool. I find my self looking for the stars I have now learned, every single time I go out into my pasture at night.

Thank You

Sky Map

Hi Dennis,  We do indeed offer a Sky Map of the current month. If you see the link at the bottom of this page, it goes to the monthly Sky Map.  Or, another way to find this month’s Sky Map is to go to our ASTRONOMY menu above and it’s listed under the Reference section. Or, here is the direct link to the page which displays the current month: https://www.almanac.com/content/sky-map-star-chart-may-2018

This Sky Map chart needs to be on a separate page as the maps are quite large files. The Sky Maps are also created by a different astronomer, Jeff DeTray. The night skies and space are so massive that Jeff tends to focus on one event or area of the sky each month of the year.

The page we’re on right now shows the Sky Watch from The 2018 Old Farmer’s Almanac, the annual reference book that we publish. This month is provided free, courtesy of the Almanac, but also you can find all 12 months in our little yellow book. 

Hope this is helpful. We appreciate your interest in The Old Farmer’s Almanac and our free Web site.