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Astronomy column: a look at what's happening in May

Start to look for Mercury low in the west-northwest at dusk about mid May. Our innermost planet reaches the greatest angular (elongation) distance from the sun on May 25.

Jupiter is easily the brightest planet or star in the evening (western) sky at nightfall. Our largest planet is joined by the moon the evenings of May 3, 4 and 31. A telescope will show light and dark bands across Jupiter's surface. At the same time, look for Jupiter's four largest moons orbiting the planet.

Mars is bright in the southeast after dark at the start of May. It will dim as we move deeper into the month. The moon is near Mars May 10-11.

Since Saturn is in opposition, it will rise with the setting sun and set with the rising sun. It will be highest in the south a little after midnight. In a telescope, the rings are tilted 22 degrees to our line of sight.

Jupiter, Mars and Saturn are all prominent in the evening sky in May. Check out the opportunities listed in the column to see them in a telescope. Saturn is my favorite.

Venus rises an hour before the sun around mid month and will be found below a thin crescent moon on May 25. Venus is the brightest of all the planets and about the size of Earth.

There is a possibility of a meteor shower the morning of May 24. It is at this time that Earth will move through the debris from a passing comet. When this debris burns up in our upper atmosphere, we have a meteor shower. One could see as many as 100 meteors an hour or very few. Keep watch between 1 and 5 a.m., and good luck!

At the planetariums

Science + Technology Education Innovation Center, 7701 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg: Sci-Fi and Sky Night starts at 6 p.m. May 3. For more information, call (727) 384-0027 or visit sciencecenter

The St. Petersburg Astronomy Club meets at 8 p.m. May 23.

St. Petersburg College, 69th Street and Fifth Avenue N, St. Petersburg: Free planetarium shows begin at 7 and 8:15 p.m. Fridays. There will be no show May 16. Call (727) 341-4320 for details.

Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa: Hidden Universe is being shown in the IMAX Dome. Call (813) 987-6100 or visit for more events.

The astronomy club meets at 7 p.m. May 9 in the Science Works Theatre.

Daryl L. Schrader is professor emeritus at St. Petersburg College and teaches astronomy at the University of South Florida.

Sky calendar

May 1: The star Aldebaran is below a thin crescent moon in the west at nightfall.

May 2: Telescopes available in Gulfport. Great views of Jupiter and Saturn this month.

May 3: The moon is directly below Jupiter in the west at dark.

May 4: Look to the west to find the moon to the left of Jupiter in the evening sky.

May 6: First quarter moon is at an apogee of 251,232 miles.

May 10: Look for Mars to the left of the moon in the southeast after dusk. Saturn at opposition and at its greatest brightness this year.

May 11: Mars is to the upper right of the moon at nightfall.

May 13: Saturn is to the lower left of the moon at dusk and near the moon all night.

May 14: Saturn is to the upper right of the full moon this evening.

May 16-27: Mercury highest above the west-northwest horizon at dusk for this year.

May 18: The moon is closest at 228,107 miles this month.

May 21: Last quarter moon.

May 24: Possible meteor shower this morning. Look toward the darkest part of the sky. The meteors will appear to come from the north.

May 25: Venus is just below a thin crescent moon in the east before sunrise. Mercury is at its greatest angular distance from the sun.

May 28: New moon.

May 31: Jupiter is to the upper right of a thin crescent moon in the west-northwest after dusk.

Astronomy column: a look at what's happening in May 04/21/14 [Last modified: Monday, April 21, 2014 5:00pm]
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