Get ready for a month of amazing skywatching in May 2023, as the night sky is filled with exciting astronomical events for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re an experienced stargazer or just starting out, there’s something for everyone to see. This month, you can look forward to a gentle lunar eclipse, beautiful meteor showers, and stunning meetings between planets and the Moon. In this article, we’ll walk you through the top celestial events of the month and show you how to spot them for a fun and memorable stargazing experience.
Before we begin, make sure to download one of these space apps. They will help you quickly locate the planets.
Top Astronomy Events in May 2023
May 5: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
The first celestial event of the month is a penumbral lunar eclipse on May 5th. Visible from parts of Antarctica, Asia, Russia, Africa, and Oceania, the Moon will pass through Earth’s outer shadow, known as the penumbra. This will cause the Moon’s brightness to be reduced, though its entire disk will remain somewhat illuminated, giving the impression of a Full Moon. Penumbral lunar eclipses are subtle and might be challenging to observe, but the May 5th event will last for an impressive 4.25 hours, from 15:15 UTC to 19:32 UTC.
May 6: η-Aquariid Meteor Shower:
Comet Halley’s η-Aquariids will grace the night sky from April 19th to May 28th, peaking on May 6th with up to 20 meteors per hour. To catch the maximum number of meteors, look up in the predawn sky on May 6th. The Moon, in Libra, will be only 2 days past full phase at the shower’s peak, presenting significant interference throughout the night. Just remember to allow your eyes 20-30 minutes to adapt to the darkness for optimal viewing.
May 8: Venus at its highest altitude
Venus will dazzle in the evening sky on May 8th as it reaches its highest point during its 2023 apparition. Shining at a magnitude of -4.3, the planet will be a brilliant point of light 37° above the western horizon. To catch this spectacle, simply look west soon after sunset.
May 9: Uranus at solar conjunction
Uranus reaches solar conjunction on May 9th, lying on the opposite side of the Sun and remaining hidden from view for several weeks. Once it emerges from the Sun’s glare, Uranus will become visible as an early morning object in the eastern sky.
May 11: Moon at perigee
On May 11th, the Moon will be at perigee, its closest point to Earth. As a result, it will appear slightly larger than usual.
May 13: Saturn-Moon conjunction
The 23-day-old Moon will pass within 3°17′ of Saturn in the constellation Aquarius on May 13th. To witness this conjunction, look to the eastern predawn sky.
May 17: Lunar occultation of Jupiter
The Moon will pass in front of Jupiter on May 17th, temporarily hiding the gas giant from view. This occultation will be visible from Canada, the United States, Greenland, and Mexico. Make sure to mark your calendar for this rare and intriguing event.
May 19: New Moon
The New Moon on May 19th presents an excellent opportunity for stargazers to observe faint celestial objects such as galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae. With the Moon not visible, the night sky will be at its darkest, providing optimal conditions for deep-sky observations.
May 23: Conjunction of Moon and Venus
On May 23rd, the 4-day-old Moon will pass within 2°12′ of Venus in the constellation Gemini. This stunning conjunction will be easily visible in the western sky soon after sunset, creating a breathtaking celestial display.
May 24: Conjunction of Moon and Mars
The following day, on May 24th, the 5-day-old Moon will pass within 3°39′ of Mars in the constellation Cancer. Both celestial objects will be visible near Venus in the western sky soon after sunset, making for a fantastic planetary spectacle.
May 25: Moon at apogee
The Moon will reach its farthest point from Earth on May 25th, appearing slightly smaller than usual. This event, known as apogee, serves as an interesting comparison to the Moon’s perigee earlier in the month.
May 2023 Planet Round-Up
Mercury: Hidden in the Sun’s glare for the first three weeks of May, Mercury will become visible in the eastern skies at dusk, near Jupiter, later in the month.
Venus: Dominating the western evening sky, Venus shines brightly at magnitude -4.3.
Mars: A faint speck of light close to Venus, Mars, can be spotted in the western dusk skies.
Jupiter: Emerging from behind the Sun, Jupiter is visible in the eastern dawn skies, rising a couple of hours before the Sun.
Saturn: Easily visible with the naked eye, Saturn can be found in the southeastern predawn sky.
Uranus: Hidden in the Sun’s glare, Uranus will remain invisible throughout May 2023.
Neptune: Apparently, Neptune lies between Jupiter and Saturn and can be seen in the eastern predawn sky.
May 2023 is shaping up to be an incredible month for stargazing enthusiasts, with a variety of celestial events gracing the night sky. From eclipses and meteor showers to planetary spectacles and lunar phenomena, there’s something for everyone. So, gather your telescope or binoculars, head outside, and enjoy the celestial wonders awaiting you this month.