What's up for May?

Text Size

What's up for May?
› View Now
What's up for May?

We'll be looking at some old friends from last month and some new ones. Hello and welcome. My name is Jane Houston Jones, and I'm educator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Again this month, Saturn and Venus grace the early evening skies. Venus is the brighter of the two. You might even see Venus before the sun sets! Saturn looks like a golden star to the unaided eye, and through a telescope, you'll see the icy rings and some of Saturn's moons. Mercury doesn't ever rise very high above the horizon, but this month is one of the better opportunities for you to try and see it. You'll need an unobstructed view of the western horizon towards the end of May. That means a place away from your trees and buildings.

If you see a twinkling "star" there, it's Mercury. Now here are some new objects to look at in May, but you'll have to wait until midnight or later to see them. One is really easy to see. Jupiter rises at about 11:30 p.m. in the east and will move higher in the sky each hour. It's the brightest object in the sky, except for the moon. If you don't want stay up late star gazing, check out the recent view of Jupiter from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which flew by Jupiter on its journey to Pluto.

The Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra both recently took great pictures of Jupiter too. There's another object we can see this month. It's the asteroid Vesta. It won't be as easy to see as Jupiter but it's in the same part of the sky. It won't be very bright but you'll love seeing such a distant, tiny object. When the Dawn mission launches this summer, you'll be hearing more about Vesta and Ceres.

Dawn's eight-year, 3.2-billion-mile journey will study the heart of the asteroid belt. You can learn more about NASA missions by visiting www.nasa.gov. You can find resources for amateur astronomers at education.jpl.nasa.gov. Just click on the What's Up button. This is Jane Houston Jones. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology › View Now