2017: May, Mars Fades in West

Mars appears in the west-northwestern sky near the star Aldebaran during May. On May 1, it is about 7 degrees to the upper right of Aldebaran. Look for it about an hour after sunset low in the sky.  You’ll need a good horizon to see it.  It is fading in brightness and begins to set during twilight on May 11 as it heads toward a July 26 solar conjunction.  It reappears in the morning sky in early autumn with a close conjunction with Venus on October 5.

For more information about the planets see:


2017, May: View of Saturn

Saturn rises in the May sky later in the evening.  Early in the month it appears above the eastern horizon around 10 p.m.  While this planet does not dominate the sky in brightness, it is on of the wonders of the sky through a telescope.  Its extensive rings dazzle the eye.

On the morning of May 14, the waning gibbous moon appears about 4.5 degrees from Saturn.  The star Antares, appears 17 degrees to the upper right of Saturn.

On May 1, look for Venus near the eastern horizon, Jupiter near the western horizon and Saturn in the south.

For more information about the planets see:

2017, May: Jupiter in Evening Sky

Jupiter is that bright star shining in the eastern sky after sunset, rising about 3 hours before sunset early in the month.  It is retrograding (appearing to move west compared to the starry background) into early next month.  (See our article below about Jupiter and Spica.)  On the evening of May 7, the waxing gibbous moon appears about 2.5 degrees from Jupiter with Spica about 10 degrees to the lower left of the giant planet.


Jupiter on May 11, 2017.

For more information about the planets see:

2017, May: Venus in Morning Sky

Venus is the bright star in the morning sky during twilight in May 2017, rising 100 minutes before the sun in early May.  On May 1st, Venus is in its brightest phase.  While near our planet (41 million miles away), sun reflecting from its clouds make it appear exceeding bright in our sky.  It will continue to shine at its brightest through mid-month.  While moving away from our planet on a track  closer to the sun than earth, it continues to shine as the brightest “star” in our sky.


Venus from Las Vegas, NV on May 8, 2017

Until about May 21, Venus rises in the eastern sky while Jupiter is setting in the west.  After late May, Jupiter sets before Venus rises.  So it’s best to look for both in the sky early in the month.

On May 22, the moon appears about 3 degrees from Venus.

For more information about the planets see:

2017, May: Sun & Moon


May’s arrival begins the full burst of spring in mid-northern latitudes.  For observational astronomy it is one of the best months of the year.  This year, Jupiter gleams in the evening sky and Venus dominates the morning views.  With occasional nights with northwest winds and a hint of frost, the skies gleam clearly.  Living near Lake Michigan, the prevailing breezes are sometimes from the northeast.  These nights are somewhat blustery, hinting that winter is still attempting to hang on.  It’s those days and evenings with northwesterly winds that are the best.  May also begins longer daylight, with the sun in the sky nearly an hour longer this month.  By month’s end the daylight lasts 15 hours.  As the season inches toward the summer solstice, the daylight only increases another 13 minutes.

The sun’s rising and setting points only move northward about 10 degrees.  The solstice is near.

May’s warmer, longer days, the burst of spring foliage, and northwesterly evening breezes, make this month the best of the year.


NASA Photo


Phase Date/Time Moonrise Moonset
First Quarter 05/02/17 (9:47 p.m.) 1:43 a.m. 2:09 a.m. (05/03/17)
Full Moon 05/10/17 (4:42 p.m.) 7:48 p.m. 6:59 a.m. (05/11/17)
Last Quarter 05/18/17 (7:33 p.m.) 11:23 a.m. 12:02 p.m.
New Moon 05/25/17 (2:44 p.m.) 5:35 a.m. 8:06 p.m.

Times are Central Daylight Time for Chicago, Illinois, from US Naval Observatory calculations.
(For mjb & afb)

2017, April 23: Venus and Moon

Brilliant Venus and the moon shine from the eastern sky this morning as seen from the Chicago area. The pair is about 8 degrees apart.  During the next few weeks Venus appears at its brightest, although it rises during twilight.

For more information about the planets see:

2017, April: Jupiter Dominates Evening Sky

Jupiter is the brightest “star” in the evening sky. It is low in the eastern sky during the early evening hours. It is just passed opposition rising just before sunset.

For more information about the planets see: