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Milky Way over Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

View larger. | Photo taken April 11, 2016, in La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica, by Sergio Vindas. Visit Sergio online.

Photo taken April 11, 2016, in La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica, by Sergio Vindas.

“Since three years ago, we have planned to shoot this photo. We went to the zone repeatedly but every time we got nothing … until now.” – Sergio Vindas

Drive a spike to star Spica in May

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Once you’ve used the Big Dipper to find the orange star Arcturus, you can continue on to find the star Spica, brightest light in the constellation Virgo.

Guide to Mars’ opposition on May 22

View larger. | Halo around the moon with Mars, Antares and Saturn sheltering inside it, Photo by Stephen Marceau in Eastern Australia, March 2, 2016.

Stephen Marceau in Eastern Australia caught Mars, Saturn and the star Antares inside a lunar halo on March 2, 2016.

On May 22, 2016, Earth will fly between Mars and the sun, bringing the red planet closer to Earth than it’s been for over a decade. Astronomers call this event an opposition of Mars, and, although Mars’ oppositions typically come every other year, some bring Mars especially close. That’s the case this year. Follow the links inside to learn more.

Video: Mars and Saturn in 2016

Video of this year’s oppositions of Mars and Saturn, in front of the constellations Libra and Scorpius. Notice Mars appearing larger around its May 22 opposition! Lots more, plus essential links, inside.

Everything you need to know: Eta Aquarid meteor shower

View larger. | The 2013 Eta Aquarid meteor shower was fantastic as viewed from Earth's Southern Hemisphere.  Colin Legg created this composite of his experience on May 6, 2013.  He wrote, 'Composite of approximately 50 images containing 26 meteors, meteor train, 17 % moon, zodiacal light and Pilbara desert.  60 km South of Newman, Western Australia.'

The 2013 Eta Aquarid meteor shower was fantastic as viewed from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. Colin Legg of Australia created this composite of his experience. He wrote, ‘Composite of approximately 50 images containing 26 meteors, meteor train, 17 % moon, zodiacal light and Pilbara desert.’

In 2016, the forecast calls for the greatest number of Eta Aquarid meteors to light up the predawn darkness on May 5 and 6. It should be a good year for this shower, with the May 6 new moon guaranteeing deliciously dark skies for the 2016 Eta Aquarids. This shower favors the Southern Hemisphere, ranking as one of the finest showers of the year. At mid-northern latitudes, these meteors don’t fall so abundantly, though mid-northern meteor watchers will catch some, too, and might be lucky enough to catch an earthgrazer – a bright, long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across the sky – before dawn. Follow the links inside to learn more about the Eta Aquarids!

Follow the arc to star Arcturus in May

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Now is the perfect time to look outside in the evening and learn a phrase useful to sky watchers. The phrase is: follow the arc to Arcturus.

Criss-crossed Saturn rings?

View larger. | Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Saturn’s rings appear to be intersecting in an impossible way. But – in this new Cassini spacecraft image – we’re really just seeing a play of light and shadow.

Inhospitable Danakil Depression hosts extreme life

Hydrothermal system at the Danakil Depression. The yellow deposits are a variety of sulphates and the red areas are deposits of iron oxides. Copper salts colour the water green. Image credit: Felipe Gomez/Europlanet 2020 RI

Hydrothermal system at the Danakil Depression. The yellow deposits are a variety of sulphates and the red areas are deposits of iron oxides. Copper salts colour the water green. Image credit: Felipe Gomez/Europlanet 2020 RI

In Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression, near-boiling water bubbles up from underground, high salt concentrations create yellow towers, toxic vapor fogs the air. Can any life survive there? Scientists are trying to find out.

May 2016 guide to the 5 bright planets

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

In May, 2016, Jupiter is the brightest starlike object up when the sun goes down. Mercury, the innermost planet, tranists the sun on May 9. Earth swings between Mars and the sun on May 22, giving us our best view of the planet in about two years! Saturn and the bright star Antares make a triangle with Mars on the sky’s dome. Venus is behind the sun.

Next Blue Moon is May 21, 2016

Beautiful image by our friend Jv Noriega. Thank you, Jv! Does a Blue Moon look blue like this? No. This photo was made using special filters to create the blue color.

The next Blue Moon will be on May 21, 2016. It’s a seasonal Blue Moon, the third of four full moons between the March equinox and the June solstice of 2016. Read about the various kinds of Blue Moons, and how often they occur, here.