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In the Sky This Month

Mars takes center stage this month. The planet shines brightest for the year, outperforming all but the Moon and Jupiter. Saturn trails close behind it, and it’s nearing its peak for 2016 as well. In the meantime, Virgo climbs higher into the evening sky, Leo begins to nose down toward the western horizon, and the twins of Gemini begin to disappear in the western twilight by month’s end.

May 25: The Centaur

Late spring is a good time to look for the constellation Centaurus, the mythological half-man, half-horse. His head and shoulders stand due south, quite low above the horizon, about three hours after sunset.

May 26: Faint Constellations

The little-known constellations Canes Venatici and Coma Berenices stand high overhead in early evening. They reside between two easy-to-find stars: Alkaid, which is the end of the Big Dipper’s handle, and Denebola, the tail of Leo, the lion.

May 27: Arcturus

The giant star Arcturus adds a splash of color to the sky tonight. It is two-thirds of the way up the southeastern sky as darkness falls, and shines with a distinctly yellow-orange hue. It’s the brightest star in Bootes, the herdsman.

May 28: Last-Quarter Moon

The Moon reaches last quarter at 7:12 a.m. CDT tomorrow, as it lines up at a right angle to the line between Earth and the Sun. Sunlight will illuminate about half of the lunar disk as the Moon rises in the wee hours of the morning.

May 29: Ursa Major

Ursa Major, the great bear, is high in the north this evening, and rotates to the northwest after midnight. Its most prominent stars form the Big Dipper. The dipper’s bowl forms the bear’s hindquarters, while the handle forms its tail.

May 30: Saturn Opposition

The giant planet Saturn will reach opposition on Friday night, standing opposite the Sun in the sky. It will rise at sunset and remain in the sky all night. It will be closest to Earth shortly after opposition, so it is shining brightest for the year.

May 31: Saturn Opposition II

Saturn is putting on its best showing of the year. It rises at sunset, remains in view all night, and is brightest for the year. It looks like a bright golden star low in the southeast at nightfall. It stands to the lower left of brighter Mars.

Current moon phase

New MoonNew May 6, 2:30 pm

First QuarterFirst May 13, 12:02 pm

Full MoonFull May 21, 4:14 pm

Last quarterLast May 29, 7:12 am

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Perigee May 5

Apogee May 18

The full Moon of May is known as the Milk Moon, Flower Moon, or Corn Moon.