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Tonight

Moon and Jupiter meet in Cancer the Crab on May 23

The moon and planets are always found on or near the ecliptic - the sun's annual pathway in front of the constellations of the Zodiac.

The moon and planets are always found on or near the ecliptic – the sun’s annual pathway in front of the constellations of the Zodiac.

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2015

View larger. | Scott MacNeill created this wonderful composite image at Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown, Rhode Island, USA.  We love this image, because you can see the meteors coming from their radiant point in the constellation Perseus.  Thank you, Scott!

Scott MacNeill created this wonderful composite image of the Perseid meteor shower in 2013, at Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown, Rhode Island, USA. We love this image, because you can see the meteors coming from their radiant point in the constellation Perseus. Thank you, Scott!

Next up … the Delta Aquarid meteor shower in late July and early August. It overlaps with the famous Perseid meteor shower, peaking on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13, 2015. It’s going to be a wonderful year for the Perseids! Make your campsite reservations now. Follow the links below to learn what to expect for meteor showers during the rest of 2015.

Saturn’s 2015 opposition is May 22-23

Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI

Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI

The Earth goes between the sun and Saturn on the night of May 22-23, making this Saturn’s special day. Astronomers call this an opposition of Saturn. In other words, Saturn is opposite the sun in Earth’s sky. As a consequence, Saturn rises in the east at sunset, climbs highest up for the night at midnight and sets in the west at sunrise. It is visible all night, closest and brightest for this year.

Give me five minutes and I’ll give you Saturn in 2015

Saturn as captured by the Cassini spacecraft in early February 2014.  Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004.  Many awesome images!

View larger. | Saturn as captured by the Cassini spacecraft. Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004. Image via NASA.

The best time to see the planet Saturn in 2015 is here! On May 22-23, 2015, Earth passes between this planet and the sun. As a result, the ringed planet is at its brightest and out all night long. Saturn is the sixth planet outward from the sun and farthest world that’s easily visible to the unaided eye. You need a telescope to see the planet’s wide, encircling rings, but Saturn is also fun to watch with the eye alone. It shines with a steady light and golden color. Clouded out this week? Never fear. Follow the links below to learn more about seeing Saturn throughout 2015.

Moon and Venus closest on May 21

2015-may-21-venus-moon-night-sky-chart

Tonight – May 21, 2015 – the dazzling starlike point of light near the waxing crescent moon is the planet Venus. This world ranks as the third-brightest celestial object in all the heavens, after the sun and moon. Enjoy watching the brightest and second-brightest orbs of nighttime – the moon and Venus, respectively – as they pair up together in your western sky on this evening.

Moon, Venus and Jupiter on May 20

may-20-2015-jupiter-venus-moon-simple

The first three celestial bodies to pop out after sunset on these May 2015 evenings are the moon, Venus and Jupiter. Watch for these brilliant beauties to beam in your western sky shortly after the sun goes down!

Star of the week: Alpha Centauri closest star system to our sun

Alpha Centauri A and B. The arrow points to the location of Proxima.

The Alpha Centauri system is said to be the closest star system to our sun. It’s a double, or triple, star system. The two main components are Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B. The third star, a red dwarf called Proxima Centauri, is thought to be about 4.22 light-years distant and is actually our sun’s closest neighbor among the stars.

Is it part of the Alpha Centauri system? The actual status of Proxima as a system member is unclear. It might simply be passing nearby but not part of the system, or it might be gravitationally bound.

Still, we often say – and many others say – that Alpha Centauri is the closest star to our solar system, with the assumption that Proxima is a true part of the Alpha Centauri system.

Young moon below Venus on May 19

The moon and planets are always found on or near the ecliptic - Earth's orbital plane projected onto the dome of sky.

Watch for the young moon and Venus on these evenings. You’ll always find them or near the ecliptic – the sun’s path on the dome of our sky.

Tonight – May 19, 2015 – people around the world will have a chance to catch the young moon beneath the blazing planet Venus after sunset. To view this very young moon, an extremely thin crescent up only briefly after sunset, you’ll want an unobstructed horizon in the sunset direction. Binoculars might come in handy for catching this little moon low in the bright twilight sky. Venus, meanwhile, will be blazing away, very bright and easy to see for a longer time after sunset.

New moon falls on May 18

Image credit: Moon Viewer

Image via Earth and Moon Viewer

Few, if any, people around the world can expect to see the moon before sunrise or after sunset today, on May 18, 2015. Today is the day of the new moon, the time of month when the moon and sun reside on the same side of Earth. Today, the moon pretty much rises with the sun at sunrise, crosses the sky with the sun during the daytime and sets with the sun at sunset.

Find the Omega Centauri star cluster

2015-may-17-spica-omega-centauri-corvus-night-sky-chart

The sparkling blue-white star Spica can act as your guide to the Omega Centauri globular star cluster on these springtime nights. You can actually see this cluster with the unaided eye. Omega Centauri looks like a fairly faint (and possibly fuzzy) star. It’s a beautiful and very special star cluster, and Spica can help you find it.