Tonight's Night Sky: May 2023 | Almanac.com

Night Sky for May 2023: Planets, Stars, and the Moon

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Adler Planetarium
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Tonight's night sky for the month of May

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May brings warmer nights and one of the most picturesque scenes is Monday, the 22nd, through Tuesday, the 23rd! See Venus and Mars hovering near the crescent Moon. Here are details from longtime Almanac astronomer Bob Berman.

May 1: Venus Shines Bright

May Day is the heyday for Venus this month! It’s fitting that Venus, goddess of love and fertility, reigns during the month when green things are growing.

Venus is on full display on the 1st at a dazzling -4.1 magnitude in the western sky. (Magnitude is the measure of a planet’s brightness, and a negative value indicates that the planet is easy to spot in the night sky—you won’t even need a pair of binoculars!) Just look towards the western horizon about 45 minutes after sundown, and Venus is the brightest object (30° above the horizon). Just below is the Taurus constellation and the Bull’s horns.

Mercury strays eastward to its furthest position away from the Sun, but the smallest planet appears too faint to be visible. Don’t expect to see planet Mercury this month.

May 5: Flower Moon

Cinco de Mayo is your invitation for tacos and margaritas under the moonlight! On May 5, at 1:34 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.
Today also brings a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse, but, for our North American readers, the eclipse cannot be seen. Don’t fret, frankly, these partial shadows over the Moon are rarely visible to the naked eye.
The Eta Aquarids meteor shower, dust and debris from Halley’s Comet, also occurs tonight during the predawn hours. Unfortunately, the blindingly bright Full Moon will make viewing more difficult. See our Meteor Shower Calendar.

May 12: Last Quarter Moon and Saturn

On the 12th, 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!

A few hours before dawn breaks on the 12th, 13th, and 14th, look near the Moon for Saturn! The Ringed Planet will be just above the Moon on the morning of May 13. Saturn has a magnitude of 1 so it’s about the same brightness as the brightest stars and may blend in. As dawn arrives, Saturn will fade into the light.

May 15: Jupiter Returns in the Morning

Jupiter returns around May 15 as a morning “star” as well, after being too close to the Sun for observation last month. The Giant Planet is very bright with a -2 magnitude. Look about 45 minutes before sunrise, but Jupiter will become difficult to see as the Sun rises so it’s a fleeting sight!

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

May 17: Jupiter and Moon Conjunction

The 17th of May brings the early-morning pairing of the Moon and Jupiter. The Giant 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.

Again, check your planet rise times as well as the sunrise times.

May 19: New Beginnings 

You may notice that something is missing this evening—the Moon! On May 19, at 11:53 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 22 and 23: Venus is on the Move

After sunset on the 22nd, Venus can be seen floating above the waxing crescent Moon. Just look towards the west. 

But the goddess is on the move. On the 23rd, both Venus and Mars frame the crescent Moon for a truly spectacular sight! 

Then on the 24th, the Moon appears above Mars. Before midnight, Venus will set in the west, followed by Mars soon after midnight. 

See the Almanac’s Bright Planets Calculator.

Credit: Adler Planetarium infographic shows Mars, Venus, the Moon on May 22 to May 23, 2023.

May 27: First Quarter Moon

On the 27th at 11:22 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.

May 31: The House of the Lion

As we bid May adieu, Earth’s closest neighbors their trek across the night sky. Locate brightly lit Venus and notice Mars hovering to the upper right of it. Both of these planets have entered the lion’s den and are now within the constellation Leo.

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.

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