May Skies – by Dick Cookman

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, May Moon
Focus Constellations: Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Leo Minor, Leo, Coma Berenices, Canes Venatici, Bootes, Corona Borealis, Hercules, Lyra

Comet Journals

C/2019 L3 (ATLAS), an early evening 10th magnitude comet, moves from Gemini to Canis Minor in May. It passed perihelion on January 9 and was closest to Earth on January 6. C/2021 O3 (PanSTARRS) was over 4 times Earth’s distance from the Sun when discovered in Pegasus in July of 2021. It whipped in from the Oort Belt on a steep orbit and passed through perihelion on April 21. But perihelion was too close to the Sun. Unlike the mythological Icarus whose wax wings melted when he got too close, the fate of the comet was disintegration into a cloud of debris that now is on its way to the Andromeda Galaxy. Let’s be hopeful that C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) has a better fate. It is in western Hercules, near the Aquila boundary at 8th magnitude. It will be closest to Earth on July 14, 2022, and will reach perihelion on December 19, 2022. It is a huge comet, possibly reaching naked eye visibility near perihelion or even rivaling 1997’s Hale-Bopp.

Mars Landers

On April 13, after a month of high speed travel over the floor of Jezero Crater, Perseverance arrived at its destination at the foot of the delta on the crater’s edge. The 3 mile trip covered more distance in a single month than ever achieved by any Mars rover. During the ensuing year-long study of the delta, mission scientists hope to find fossilized traces of ancient Martian life in the delta rocks. In one scenario, remnants of lifeforms which may have developed in the early Noachian period (about 4 billion years ago) when Mars was probably more friendly to life, were preserved in the watershed until they were washed into the river system, and then into the lake in the crater.
Anna Horleston of the University of Bristol and colleagues were able to identify reflected PP and SS waves from a magnitude 4.2 event in August, 2021 recorded by the InSight lander, and locate its origin in the Valles Marineris, a massive canyon that is one of the largest graben systems in the Solar System.
After encountering terrain too rough to cross, the Curiosity Rover turned around and descended from Greenheugh Pediment and is now winding its way between numerous buttes to reach an alternate “MSAR” or “Mount Sharp Ascent Route.” Observation stops in this area are chosen when they offer the best chance to acquire high resolution images of the sedimentary structures in the buttes.

Meteor Showers

The Eta Aquarid Meteor shower is the best May shower, favored by a thin waxing crescent Moon that sets long before the shower peaks before dawn with meteors shooting up from the southeastern horizon.
May 6: Eta Aquarius. Active Apr 19-May 28, Radiant 23h32m -01°, ZHR 50 – 80, 30km/sec. Waxing Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Halley’s Comet.

Planet Plottings

Mercury (+0.7 to +5.5 to +0.6) in Taurus is the only planet in the western evening sky in May, providing its best apparition of the year. It is brightest early in the month as it dims and disappears into the glow of sunset close to Inferior Conjunction with the Sun on the 21st and returns to the dawn sky at month’s end.
Morning planets span the southeastern sky in May from Uranus (+5.9) in Aries, Venus (-4.0 to -3.9), Jupiter (-2.0 to -2.1), and Neptune (+7.9) in Pisces, Mars (+0.9 to +0.7) in Aquarius and Pisces, and Saturn (0.9) in Capricornus. All but Venus and Uranus appear higher in the sky as the month progresses. Uranus does not appear until the end of the month after passing through Conjunction with the Sun on the 5th, and Venus appears to move closer to the rising Sun during May. After the Total Lunar Eclipse for the United States on the 15th, Neptune and Mars will be within less than a degree apart in Aquarius on the 17th. On the 28th, Mars passes equally close to Jupiter in Pisces.



Planet Passages




Aries, Taurus


New Moon

7:30AM EDT




+0.7 to +5.5 to 0.6

Inferior Conjunction

3:00PM EDT




-4.0 to -3.9


Aquarius, Pisces

+0.9 to +0.7

Neptune 0.6°N

Jupiter 0.6°N

7:00PM EDT

8:00PM EDT





-2.0 to -2.1

Mars, 0.6°S

8:00PM EDT








Solar Conjunction

3:00AM EDT





Mars 0.6°S

7:00PM EDT


May Moon

The New Moon of May in Taurus on the 30th at 7:31AM EDT is the start of Lunation 1230 which ends 28.64 days later with the New Moon of June in Gemini on the 28th at 10:52PM EDT.

The Full Moon of May is on the 16th at 12:15AM EDT. It is in Scorpius. The May Full Moon is called Milk, or Planting Moon. It was the “Milk Moon” in Colonial America and the “Hare Moon” in Medieval England. Celts called it “Bright Moon”, and the Chinese call it “Dragon Moon”. As mentioned above, Americans are treated to a Total Lunar Eclipse, peaking at 12:15AM on the 16th.

Of 13 Grandmother Moons during each year, the Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people recognize it as “Budding Moon” (Zaagibagaa-giizis) in the western dialect or Namebine-giizis (Suckerfish Moon) in the eastern dialect. According to the folks at Earth Haven Farm in Ontario, the 5th Grandmother Moon of the year is the Flower Moon and the cultural teaching that explains the cycle of life and nature for the Flower Moon of Creation is that: “all plants display their Spirit sides for all the world to see. This life giving energy is one the most powerful healing medicines on Mother Earth. During this moon we are encouraged to explore our Spiritual essences.” 

Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on May 5 at 9:00AM EDT, when the Moon will be at a distance of 251,833 mi. (63.55 Earth radii). Lunar Perigee distance (minimum lunar distance) is 223,879 mi. (56.49 Earth radiil) on the 17th at 11:29AM EDT. 

The waxing crescent Moon appears to pass Uranus on the 1st, Mercury on the 2nd, and Saturn is next for the waning gibbous Moon on the 22nd. A waning crescent Moon passes Neptune and Mars on the 24th, Jupiter on the 25th, Venus on the 27th, Uranus on the 28th, and Mercury on the 29th.




Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Taurus


7:31AM EDT, 5/30

New 0 Days
Mercury Taurus


1.8°SE, Noon EDT, 5/2

Waxing Crescent 1.81 Days
Mercury Taurus


2.3°SE, 7:00AM EDT, 5/29

Waning Crescent 28.61 Days
Venus Pisces


0.27°ESE, Midnight EDT, 5/27

Waning Crescent 26.31 Days
Mars Pisces


2.5°SE, 7:00PM EDT, 5/24

Waning Crescent 24.11 Days
Jupiter Pisces


2.92°SE, Midnight EDT, 5/25

Waning Crescent 24.31 Days
Saturn Pisces


4.2°SE, 4:00AM EDT, 5/22

Waning Crescent 21.48 Days
Uranus Aries


0.45°ESE, 1:00AM EDT, 5/1

Waxing Crescent 0.36 Days
Uranus Aries


0.38°ESE, 11:00AM EDT, 5/28

Waning Crescent 27.77 Days
Neptune Pisces


3.3°SE, 10:00AM EDT, 5/24

Waning Crescent 23.73 Days