Deborah Byrd

This week’s young moon and Venus

The brightest planet Venus has now returned to the evening sky, joining Mercury. It’ll surprise you by appearing so bright, low in the western twilight. The moon swept past it Wednesday evening, May 12, 2021, and is climbing higher each day.

Sky chart of Corvus the Crow and Spica, the constellation Virgo's brightest star.

Meet Corvus the Crow

Corvus is a small constellation, recognizable for its compact, boxy shape. It’s a fun one!

Look for the beautiful Northern Crown

Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, is an almost perfect semicircle of stars. Look for it between 2 bright stars: Arcturus and Vega.

springtime-big-dipper-arcurus-spica.jpg

Arc to Arcturus, spike to Spica

Learn a phrase useful to sky watchers: Follow the arc to Arcturus and drive a spike (or speed on) to Spica.

An image of 2 blue-white stars, one slightly larger than the other.

Spica, bright beacon of Virgo, is a whirling pair of egg-shaped stars

Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, is a very close, scorching-hot pair of stars, whirling around one another. One may go supernova as it nears the end of its lifetime.

Bright star Vega on May evenings

Blue star Vega is the brightest light in the distinctive constellation Lyra the Harp. Vega is easy to spot at this time of year. Lyra is easy, too, if you have a dark sky.

A rocket body, seen from cameras carried higher up on the rocket, with the curve of Earth below.

SpaceX Starship prototype soars 6 miles up, then lands upright

SpaceX’s test flight of Starship SN15 went off without a hitch today, May 5, 2021. Following 4 Starship prototypes that exploded upon landing after their high-altitude flight tests, the SN15 landed safely.

Venus gleaming in a twilight sky, with an owl in silhouette in front of it.

Venus and the owl, from California

Venus and Mercury are both in the western sky after sunset now, but both are exceedingly low in the sky, in the midst of bright twilight, and so difficult to spot. These photos captured them.

May 2021 guide to the bright planets

Mars is the only visible planet out after nightfall. You’ll find it descending in the west each evening in May 2021. Also watch for brilliant Venus and little Mercury low in the west, for a brief time after sunset. Bright Jupiter and ringed Saturn grace the morning sky.

What moves the sailing stones of Death Valley?

At Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa, some rocks show signs of movement, etching trails in the dry lake bed. It was an enduring mystery until quite recently.