What’s up in the night sky for May

This month Venus and Mercury grace the west-northwest sky over Bear Mountain an hour past sunset

This month Venus and Mercury grace the west-northwest sky over Bear Mountain an hour past sunset. Elusive Mercury will be visible a little less than 10 degrees above the horizon early in the month – also at the end of the Salish Walk of the Planets over Bear Mountain.  You can measure 10 degrees by holding your outstretched clenched fist against the sky.  Bright Venus is easy to see another 20 degrees above Mercury.

The giant planets Jupiter and Saturn rule the sky this month. Here’s where and when to look.

Jupiter, the largest and brightest of our solar system’s planets has been visible for many months. If you haven’t looked at Jupiter through a telescope, you’re in for a real treat. Look west-northwest again towards Bear Mountain and you’ll find Jupiter to the upper left of bright Venus.  From May 20-24 the moon passes from right to left below and between these two giants.

You’ll get great views of Jupiter’s colourful cloud bands and its four largest moons, discovered over 400 years ago by Galileo. You can see both the cloud bands and the moons using most binoculars and telescopes of any size.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which launched Aug. 11, 2011, has travelled over one and a half billion miles, and has another 200 million miles to go before entering Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016.

Next up, Saturn, finally visible in the night skies before midnight.

Saturn reaches opposition on May 22 – when the planet is visible all night long. It rises at sunset in the southeast over Bellingham and sets at dawn in the northwest over Bear Mountain. This year, the majestic rings are open – which means they’re tilted toward Earth  — more than 24 degrees compared to the edgewise view we had in 2009.

At this angle, the rings reflect more light toward Earth and increase the brightness of Saturn.  Through a telescope, you may be able to see colour differences and faint bands the colour of cream and butterscotch.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn since 2004, has four close encounters with Titan, two with Dione, and three with the geyser-spewing moon Enceladus this year. We are all excited about the “Search for Life” missions to Enceladus and Titan over the next few years.

And as part of the planning for the “Search for Life”, in 2016 and 2017 Cassini will fly up and over the north and south poles of Saturn and dive in between the innermost of the planet’s rings – the D ring – and the upper atmosphere of Saturn itself.

Jane Houston-Jones asks me to remind her Oak Bay followers that you can learn all about the Cassini mission at Saturn.nasa.gov. And you can learn about all of NASA’s missions, including Juno, at www.nasa.gov.

Dark skies to all friends of Cattle Point Star Park.

 

Summary is from the transcript of “What’s Up In May 2015” by NASA announcer and astronomer Jane Houston Jones with specific permission for localization to Cattle Point Urban Star Park and the Oak Bay News.  Bill Smith is a volunteer at Cattle Point Dark Sky Urban Star Park.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Hundreds celebrate Year of the Rat in Victoria’s Chinatown

Lion dancers and kung fu demonstrations on display

Camosun student shares story of overcoming struggles to inspire others

Provincial Tuition Waiver Program helps former youths in care attend post-secondary institutions

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto: officials

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in B.C.

Most Read