May Night Sky Welcomes Saturn And Spring Constellations

Night Sky 3
Image Credit: Nathan Anderson

Orion the Hunter and other winter constellations, such as Canis Major, Canis Minor, Gemini, Auriga and Taurus, are beginning to sink below the horizon and by the end of May will disappear until late autumn.

Instead, skywatchers can now look forward to seeing the constellations which dominate the spring night sky, including Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Bootes, Leo, Scorpius and Virgo.

Ursa Major is useful for locating many of these neighbouring constellations. In addition, Ursa Major contains an asterism of stars known as the Saucepan (Big Dipper), and looking north in May, you will notice it appears upside down, which folklore quaintly uses to explain why there is so much rain in spring.

Another treat in the evening sky is the arrival of the planet Saturn, which can be found in the southeast some 820 million miles from Earth. In May, the ringed planet will appear in Virgo and be bright  enough to outshine even the constellation’s first magnitude star Spica. Saturn presents a beautiful view in a medium sized (4.5″) telescope, and in order to find Saturn follow an arc from the handle of the Big Dipper through to Arcturus in Bootes and then onto Spica in Virgo.

Interestingly, at the end of April Saturn reaches opposition and as Dr. Tony Phillips of NASA, explains: “Look again on April 28th. That’s when Saturn will be closest to Earth–about 1.3 billion km away. If clouds intervene, don’t worry; there are many more opportunities to look. Saturn will remain a golden jewel in the midnight sky for weeks to come.”

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