Check out all of the visible planets while you can!
Map of the evening sky, facing West, on May 30th, 2014 at 9:00 PM
Image courtesy Stellarium

 
May is a fantastic month for observing the visible planets of our Solar System.  Trace the path of the Sun in the sky to help find them-the planets will lie near what is called the ecliptic, the path the Sun takes through the sky.
 
 
 You might be able to catch little Mercury right as the Sun sets, right above the West-but look quick, it will set fast! As you are searching for Mercury, you will find that you can also see Jupiter, high in the Western sky. Trace back along the ecliptic to see a salmon-colored and bright Mars in the East/SouthEast. All three of these planets will be visible before the rest of the evening's stars make their appearance-they are that bright!

Mercury does not offer much detail though a telescope but you may be able to see its phase; like Venus and our Moon, it undergoes phases from our point of view. Jupiter will have four lovely moons on display as well as its clouds and famous (and rapidly shrinking) Red Spot. Mars will show off its ruddy color, and if you have a large telescope and good seeing conditions you may see ahint of detail on its surface, including a polar cap. 
 
Map of Saturn and Mars in the SouthEast on May 30, 2014 at 9:00 pm
 
Map of Saturn and Mars in the SouthEast on May 30, 2014 at 9:00 pm
Image courtesy Stellarium

 
 Saturn will rising in the East as the sun sets, and this month it is especially bright, having been in opposition to our Sun on May 10th. That means that on that date Saturn was directly opposite our Sun in our sky, and is thus wonderfully lit from our point of view; it is also closer to Earth in its orbit than for the rest of the year. Through a telescope, its rings will be visible, and possibly the gap between the rings; some of Saturn moons may be visible as well, and if you are lucky some hints of clouds as well.
 
Map of Venus rising in the West on the morning of May 31 2014
Map of Venus rising in the West on the morning of May 31 2014 at 5:00 am
Image courtesy Stellarium

 
Still awake into the very early morning? If so, be prepared for a gorgeous sight- brilliant Venus rises in the  East right before dawn, just ahead of the rising Sun. Like the Moon, Venus has phases; if you have a telescope you should be able to see the change in shape from morning to morning. Keep watching it as the sun rises to catch Venus in the daytime sky, too! It can be difficult but with practice and good sky conditions you can see it.

As always, dress appropriately, stay comfortable, and let your eyes adjust-and have fun! May you have clear skies. 
 
 

Join our vibrant stargazing community!
 
We invite you to join the NASA Night Sky Network stargazing community on Facebook and Twitter for sky charts, beautiful images, and lively conversation. 
 
 
Distant Suns, your personal guide to the cosmos, lists Night Sky Network astronomy club star parties, safe solar gazing events, and lectures in the main navigation bar. Distant Suns is available on iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and NOOK.
 

 
 

 

SkySafari, a powerful planetarium that fits in your pocket, lists Night Sky Network astronomy club star parties, safe solar gazing events, and lectures in the help menu. SkySafari is available for Android and the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.



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