May 5th: Observing With Webb in May 2018

By on May 5, 2018 in

Podcaster: Rob Webb

Title: Observing With Webb in May 2018

Organization: Physics teacher at Pequea Valley High School

Link: ; ;
follow me : @MrWebbPV

To listen to this email as a podcast, go to my Podbean page. To see a video of this information, go to my YouTube Channel


May will be a month for 4 out of the 5 naked eye planets, with Venus and Jupiter visible early each night and Mars and Saturn visible in the mornings, along with close encounters between each of these and the Moon.

Bio: Rob Webb is a physics, astronomy, and sustainability teacher at Pequea Valley High School in Pennsylvania. His passions include teaching, astronomy, astrophotography, planetariums, running, reading, and golf. A proud graduate of Dickinson College in 2005, he also obtained a Master’s Degree in Science Education from Penn State University after conducting research in regards to the current state of planetariums in Pennsylvania. Feel free to contact him at

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May will be a month for 4 out of the 5 naked eye planets, with Venus and Jupiter visible early each night and Mars and Saturn visible in the mornings, along with close encounters between each of these and the Moon.

Naked-eye PLANETS

  • Around Sunset – Venus (W)
  • Throughout the night – Jupiter (EàW)
  • Morning – Saturn (E) , Mars (E), Jupiter (W)


  • Not visible this month


  • Venus is looking fantastic this month! Look West and find the brightest source of light in that direction, about two fist-widths above the horizon.


  • Rises between 12am and 1am. Look SSE around sunrise and find the red object near Saturn, in Capricorn.


  • Rises around 1am at the beginning of the month and 11pm at the end. Look about 20˚ above the SSE horizon, up and to the right of Mars and at the top of Sagittarius.


  • Up in the SE around sunset and moves across the sky throughout the night, hanging out in Libra, setting right around sunrise. 


4th – 7th  – Close EncounterMoon, Saturn, Mars – After 2am, the Moon lines up just 6˚ to the right of Saturn on the 4th, with Mars 15˚ to the left of Saturn on the 4th. On the 5th, the Moon is almost perfectly in between Mars and Saturn, and then travels to within 2˚ of Mars on the morning of the 6th.  The next morning, find the Last Quarter Moon VERY low on the horizon, with Mars and Saturn lining up to the right.

Last Quarter Moon – 7th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

Jupiter reaches opposition – 8th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

New Moon – 15th (darkest skies)  

17th Close EncounterMoon, Venus – A wonderful pair this month. Look West after sunset for bright Venus with a very thin crescent Moon just 5˚ to the left. 

19th – 20thRocket Launch – NASA will be sending another cargo resupply to the International Space Station on an Antares rocket from Wallops Island in VA 

First Quarter Moon – 21st (Visible until midnight)

27th Close EncounterMoon, Jupiter – Find the Moon after sunset and you’ll also find Jupiter about 5˚ down and to the right, both within Libra.

Full Moon – 29th (Visible all night)

31st Close EncounterMoon, Saturn – Find the Moon after 11pm and you’ll also find Saturn about 2˚ down and to the right, both within Sagittarius.  

CONSTELLATIONS… (see sky map link at the bottom for a SkyMap for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you’ll see…

After Sunset (sunset is between 8:00pm and 8:30pm) – Ursa Major’s legs, Leo, Leo Minor

Midnight – Bootes – find the Big Dipper’s handle, and starting from the inside of the handle, follow the arc that those four stars make past the last star in the handle about 30˚ or three fist-widths to the next very bright star you find which is Arcturus, the base of the constellation Boötes.  Hence astronomers use the phrase “Follow the Arc to Arcturus”

Early Morning – Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus – These are the Summer constellations, and since they are starting to rise in the morning now, that means that summer is on its way.


Spring constellations:  Bootes, Virgo, Leo, Corona Borealis, Hercules. 

First find the Big Dipper in the North (a North Circumpolar Asterism that never sets) and look at the handle.  Starting at the star closest to the “cup” part, follow the rest of the stars in the handle and follow the arc to Arcturus.  Arcturus is the brightest star in Bootes the Shepherd.  Some say he looks more like a kite, others say more like an ice cream cone. 

Then, following the same “arc”, speed on to Spica.  Spica is the brightest star in Virgo.  Virgo’s a dimmer constellation, so you’ll be rewarded when you find her. 

To the left of Bootes is Corona Borealis.  This is a small collection of stars that make a crown, cup, or U shape in the sky. 

To the left of Corona Borealis is the great constellation of Hercules.  Hercules is the Hero of the sky and has a central “keystone” asterism, in which lies M13, the Hercules Cluster. 

Lastly, Leo is a constellation consisting of a backward question mark (or sickle) and a right triangle to the left.  Use the two Big Dipper “cup” stars that are in the middle of the Big Dipper and follow the line they make to the bright star Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.comto help you out.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at or email us at This year we will celebrates the Year of Everyday Astronomers as we embrace Amateur Astronomer contributions and the importance of citizen science. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!

About Rob Webb

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