The sky chart at the top of this post covers more area of sky than our charts usually do. So think big when using this chart to locate the planet Mars and star Regulus on May 9, 2014. Mars is the brilliant starlike object to the east of the moon (toward the sunrise direction) while Regulus – brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion – lies to the west of the moon (toward the sunset direction).
Earth passed between the sun and Mars on April 8, and we’re now traveling ahead of this world in our smaller, faster orbit. Thus Mars is losing some of the brightness it had last month. But Mars still shines more brilliantly than a 1st-magnitude star. Mars is easily the brighter of the two bright lights flanking the May 9 waxing gibbous moon. If you see any brighter point of light, it’s likely to be the planet Jupiter or sky’s brightest star, Sirius. However, neither Jupiter nor Sirius shines the vicinity of the moon tonight. From mid-northerly latitudes, Jupiter shines fairly high in the west at nightfall, while sparkling Sirius shines quite close to the southwest horizon and sets soon after nightfall.
The waxing gibbous moon will be closer to Mars on the evening of May 10. That’s because the moon moves an average of 13o eastward in front of the backdrop stars in each day. By May 13, the moon will pair up with the planet Saturn.
By the way, it’s now the best time in 2014 to see Saturn. The planet Saturn shines in the east-southeast sky at nightfall on May 9 and is out all night long for much of May. The ringed planet climbs highest for the night around midnight. It can be found low in the southwest sky at morning dawn. Earth in its smaller, faster orbit is on the verge of passing between Saturn and the sun. Our motion in orbit will carry us between the sun and Saturn on May 10. At that point, astronomers will say that Saturn is in opposition to the sun. More about Saturn’s opposition here.
Bottom line: On May 9, 2014, look for the waxing gibbous moon between the planet Mars and the star Regulus in the constellation Leo. On May 10, Earth will pass between the sun and Saturn, bringing Saturn to opposition in our sky.