Our Friendly Skies - May 2010

April 30, 2010|By ROD MARTIN / Brish Planetarium and ANDY SMETZER / Tristate Astronomers
  • All-Sky chart: May 2010

Visible evening planets

Venus is bright in the west after sunset.

Mars is high in the south.

Saturn is in the south at sunset and visible most of the night.

Visible morning planets

Jupiter rises at the start of morning twilight.

For more information about the visible evening planets and nighttime sky, download the planetarium's podcast "Skylights" from

Solar system

A trio of planets is visible after the sun leaves the sky. From the west to east you may spot Venus, Mars, and Saturn.

Venus is the brightest evening night object except the moon at -4 magnitude. Look for the very bright "star" as soon as the sun sets. Venus sets about two and one half hours after the sun.

Next in line is Mars. Over the past couple of months you may have noticed its change in position in the sky. The wandering of Mars is pretty evident now due to the geometry of Earth's orbit and Mars' orbit. This month. Mars moves into the constellation Leo the Lion after spending considerable time in Cancer. It is becoming dimmer as Earth pulls away in its faster orbit. Mars sets shortly after midnight.


The showpiece of the sky is next, the planet Saturn. The ringed planet doesn't seem as bright as usual because the rings are only tilted 1.7 degrees, nearly edge-on. Look for it between the blue star Spica in Virgo and Regulus in Leo. The three are about the same brightness.

Jupiter is the bright morning planet. Look for it to rise at the start of morning twilight early in the month, but by nearly 2:30 a.m. by month's end. It is bright in the faint constellation Pisces.

Obscure Uranus moves within one degree of Jupiter by the end of the month. Use good binoculars or a telescope to spot this planet.

Mercury is not visible this month.

The eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks May 6. This usually reliable storm consisting of particles from Comet Halley is not favorable this year because of the position of the Moon.

Sun and moon

On May 1, the sun rises at 6:11 a.m. and sets at 8:04 p.m., for 13 hours and 53 minutes of daylight. By May 31, the sun rises at 5:45 a.m. and sets at 8:31 p.m., for 14 hours and 46 minutes of daylight.

The sun enters the astronomical boundaries of Taurus from Aries on May 14.

The moon reaches last quarter on May 6, new on May 13, first quarter on May 20, and full on May 27.

Brish Planetarium and telescope clinic

A telescope clinic will be held at Discovery Station, 101 W. Washington St., Hagerstown, on Saturday, May 22, from 11 a.m to 2 p.m. If you have a telescope and not sure how to use it, bring it to the telescope clinic. The clinic is free, but there is a fee to enter Discovery Station.

Public planetarium programs have concluded for the current school year. They will resume in October with "Universe of Dr. Einstein."

The planetarium is located at the central offices of the Washington County Public Schools on Commonwealth Avenue off Frederick Street in Hagerstown. The planetarium's website is For more information about schedules and special events, go to

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