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Sky Guide: May


Welcome to the Sky Guide, your monthly guide to what's happening in the heavens!
Check out the printable version here: the-sky-tonight-may.pdf






New Moon

1st Quarter

Full Moon

3rd Quarter



Sunday 5

Sunday 12

Sunday 19

Monday 27



Wednesday 1

Wednesday 15

Friday 31












Planets Whetū Ao:





1 May
after 5.04am

15 May 
after 5.39am

31 May 
after 6.02am



1 May
after 7.48pm 

15 May
after 6.49pm

31 May 
all night



1 May
after 9.50am

15 May 
after 8.54pm

31 May 
after 7.48pm

In Pisces

In Ophiuchus

 In Sagittarius











The five brightest planets in our solar system are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These have been known since ancient times and can be seen with the naked eye. They are visible through much of the year, except for a short period when they are too close to the sun to observe.




Coma Berenices

This dim constellation was originally part of Leo and depicted the tuft of hair at the end of the lion’s tail. It became its own constellation in the 16th century, but the connection to hair remained. It’s named after Queen Berenice II who promised to sacrifice her long, beautiful hair if her husband, Ptolemy III, returned safely from battle.  

Ptolemy did indeed return and Berenice stuck to her promise. She cut off her hair and placed it at the shrine as an offering, but when she returned the following day it was gone. The court astronomer explained that her offering had been taken by the gods and placed in the sky, showing her the stars that were made from her hair.

While the stars in Coma Berenice aren’t very bright, the constellation has a lot of deep space objects. This is due to its proximity to Virgo, which holds the Virgo Supercluster, an amalgamation of galaxies loosely held together by gravity. It is also the location of the galactic north pole, which is simply “up” in our galaxy. 

To see this constellation, find Leo and the bright star Arcturus in Boötes, which are both near the Northern Horizon. Coma Berenice takes up the space between Leo and Arcturus. The brightest star in Coma Berenice is Diadem, which is, fittingly, a type of crown or tiara.





What is a Meteor?

Meteors are related to flashes of light which you sometimes see streaking across the sky. We often call these shooting stars, but in fact they’re not stars at all! Meteors begin as meteoroids, which are essentially space rocks – objects in space that range in size from dust grains to rocks up to about one metre in diameter.

Meteoroids are created when asteroids, which are much larger, collide into each other, causing small pieces to break off. When meteoroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere (or the atmosphere of another planet) at high speed they burn up. They are now called meteors, and produce the streak of light that we see in the sky. If the meteor manages to survive its trip through the atmosphere and land on Earth, it is called a meteorite. 

Meteor showers occur as Earth’s orbit around the sun crosses paths with the orbit of a comet, which is made of ice and dust. The orbits of comets are usually asymmetrical rather than circular, and as the comet gets closer to the sun its icy surface evaporates, releasing rock particles. This debris is scattered along the comet’s path, and when Earth encounters this path we experience meteor showers.

Aquariids Meteor Shower

This year, the Eta Aquariid meteor shower will reach its peak during the early hours of the morning on 5 May. You can expect to see 20 to 40 meteors per hour from about 3am until dawn. Meteors may also be visible on the mornings of 4 May and 6 May, though they will be much fewer in number.

Lucky for us, the southern hemisphere is the best place to view the Eta Aquariids, and with the new moon also occurring on 5 May, visibility should be ideal (so long as there are clear skies). While you don’t need any special equipment to view the meteor shower, ideally find a location away from the light pollution of the city where you can view the eastern horizon. Allow yourself a least an hour to view the shower, as it may take around 15 minutes for your eyes to properly adjust to the dark.


 Top image: Perseid Meteor Shower by NASA. Public Domain Mark.