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 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 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!