Night Sky for May 2024: Planets, Stars, and the Moon

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Eta Aquarids fireball and twin meteors over Half Dome, California, Yosemite National Park

Eta Aquarids fireball and twin meteors over Half Dome, California, Yosemite National Park.

Photo Credit
David Hoffman Photography

What to Look for in the Night Sky for the Month of May

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May offers skywatchers a delightful spectacle of celestial events! From dazzling planetary conjunctions to the vibrant Eta Aquarid meteor shower, this month has something for every astronomy enthusiast. Mark your calendars and get ready to witness the wonders of the night sky! Here are details from longtime Almanac astronomer Bob Berman.

May 1: Planets on Display

May Day is the heyday for planet viewing! On the 1st, at about 5:15 A.M., Saturn stands high in the east, with Mercury below it. If you look closely (or if you pull out your trusty binoculars), you can see the dim, orange Mars halfway between them. On May 1st, at 7:27 A.M., the Last Quarter Moon will also be at its peak.

See the Almanac’s Bright Planets Calculator.

May 4: The Eta Aquarids

The Eta Aquarids meteor shower, dust and debris from Halley’s Comet, also occurs tonight during the predawn hours. According to NASA, “The Eta Aquarid meteors are known for their speed, with the meteors traveling at about 148,000 mph (66 km/s) into Earth’s atmosphere.” The Moon will only be about 16% full, creating optimal viewing conditions. See our Meteor Shower Calendar for details.

Additionally, Saturn and Mars come together to create a stunning sight. These two planets can both be viewed framing the thin, crescent Moon in the brightening twilight.

May 7: New Beginnings 

You may notice that something is missing this evening—the Moon! On May 7, at 11:22 A.M. (EDT), the New Moon makes its arrival. 

Depending on your geographic region, today may be a great day to begin seeding annual flowers, fruits, and vegetables that bear crops above ground. The Moon’s gravitational pull affects the moisture level in the soil, resulting in improved germination. Read more about the age-old approach to Gardening by the Moon.

May 15: First Quarter Moon

On the 15th at 7:48 A.M. (EDT), the Moon is half illuminated to showcase a stunning First Quarter Moon. Have you ever wondered, why is it called a quarter Moon and not a half Moon? We’ve got the full scoop for you.

Tonight, the Moon will be located just above blue Spica, Virgo’s brightest star. Learn why this star is blue!

May 23: Flower Moon

On May 23, at 9:53 P.M. (EDT), the Full Flower Moon is on display at the horizon. Other names for this full Moon point full speed ahead to warmer weather, including the Budding Moon, the Planting Moon, and the Shedding Pony Moon (one of my personal favorites!). Learn more about the Full Flower Moon.

Full moon rising on May 26 2021 during sunset at Woy Woy, NSW, Australia. This night is a rare event with a Super Moon, a Blood Moon, also known as the Flower Moon and the Lunar Eclipse.
Photo Credit: Merrillie Redden

May 30: Last Quarter Moon

On the 30th, the Last Quarter Moon is in perfect position for viewing. This is one of the best times of the month for stargazing, with the Quarter Moon giving off just a tenth of the light that the full Moon does. See your local Moon phase calendar!

May 31: Saturn and Moon Conjunction

The 31st of May brings the early-morning pairing of the Moon and Saturn. The Ringed Planet appears only a fraction of a degree away from the waning crescent Moon! It will be a special sight, but it’s for early birds, and you’ll need to see this conjunction before the sunrises’ glare obscures visibility (the best viewing should be from 4:30-5:00 A.M.).

Check your planet rise times as well as the sunrise times.

Enjoy the increasing sunlight! By the end of May, we’ll have 15 hours between sunrise and sunset! (It was 14 hours at the start of the month.) The days will get longer until the summer solstice on June 21.

See the sunrise and sunset times (and the changing day length) where you live.

About The Author

Bob Berman

Bob Berman, astronomer editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob is the world’s most widely read astronomer and has written ten popular books. Read More from Bob Berman

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