The Top Night Sky Events to Enjoy in May

The Top Night Sky Events to Enjoy in May

World Events 2024-05-22

Last month's total solar eclipse has demonstrated why 2024 will be a remarkable year for astrotourism, and the celestial spectacles are far from finished. This May alone will witness a series of astronomical events, from a robust meteor shower with ideal moon conditions to multiple conjunctions between the moon and planets. For observers in the northern hemisphere, May stargazing offers an additional advantage: more favorable weather conditions.

If stargazing is part of your plans for this month, here are the top night-sky highlights to observe. Let's dive in!

Stargazing in May: shooting stars, supermoons and planetary alignments

1. May 4-5: Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks

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The 2024 Eta Aquarid meteor shower is set to put on a great display. With a nearly new moon, sky watchers will have an enhanced chance of witnessing shooting stars. This meteor shower is caused by debris from the well-known Halley's Comet, as reported by

The shower is most easily observed from the southern hemisphere, but those in the northern hemisphere can also enjoy the show. During its peak, the shower may produce up to 50 meteors per hour, although northern hemisphere viewers are expected to see between 10 to 30 meteors. To catch the display, look towards the Aquarius constellation from around 2 a.m. local time until dawn. For the best viewing experience, find a dark-sky location.

2. May 4-5: see the Moon, Mars, and Saturn – and maybe Neptune

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Just before the sun comes up on May 4th and 5th, the thin crescent Moon, the planet Mars, Neptune, and Saturn will gather just above the eastern horizon. On May 4th, look for the moon between Mars and Saturn around dawn, and on May 5th, the moon will be just to the left of Mars, according to the Farmers' Almanac. While Neptune will be there too, you'll need powerful binoculars or a telescope to see it. To get a good view, you'll need an unobstructed look at the eastern horizon – like a large lake or a hilltop above the trees.

3. May 7-8: new moon

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The best time to go stargazing is during the new moon, when the space rock is at its darkest. This month, the new moon will occur overnight from May 7th to 8th. To take advantage of this, look for the Milky Way rising low along the north to southeast horizon around midnight, with the vivid core becoming more visible as the night progresses. This month's moon is also considered a "new supermoon."

While most people are familiar with the term "supermoon" in reference to a full moon appearing larger than normal, it also applies to a new moon. Even though we can't see the new moon, it's still considered a supermoon. This month's new supermoon will be the last one of the year, according to the Farmers' Almanac. The first full supermoon of the year will grace our evening skies in August.

4. May 9: Mercury reaches greatest elongation

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If you've been wanting to observe Mercury, May 9th presents a great opportunity. On this day, Mercury will reach its farthest point from the sun, known as its greatest elongation. It'll be 26 degrees away from the sun, making May 9th one of the most favorable times of the year to spot it. Go out in the pre-dawn hours and look toward the east, near the sunrise, to see the small planet, which will be near Mars and Saturn, according to EarthSky. It can be seen with the naked eye, but using stargazing binoculars or a telescope will enhance your viewing experience.

5. May 23: full flower moon

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April's showers have brought May's flowers – and, this month, the May full flower moon. It will reach its fullest state on May 23rd at 9:53 a.m. EDT, but will be most visible on the nights of May 22nd and 23rd. It earned its nickname due to the abundance of blossoms the month brings; the name comes from the Algonquin peoples, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac.

6. May 31: Moon and Saturn conjunction

Source: NASA Hubble Space Telescope/Unsplash

If you missed the opportunity to see the moon and Saturn together in the early May night sky, mark your calendar for May 31st. According to the Farmers' Almanac, the moon will pass within almost one degree of Saturn. Like all planets, Saturn won't twinkle. Instead, look for its steady yellowish glow. Point your eyes to the eastern sky between around 2 to 4 a.m. EDT to see the pair, according to the Star Walk.

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