Weekly Stargazing Tips

Provided by StarDate.org. Unless otherwise specified, viewing times are local time regardless of time zone, and are good for the entire Lower 48 states (and, generally, for Alaska and Hawaii).

April 30: Alphecca

Corona Borealis, the northern crown, is a pretty semicircle of stars that’s about a third of the way up the eastern sky at nightfall. Its brightest star, Alphecca, is at the center of the semicircle.

May 1: Beltane

In the calendars of ancient Ireland and Scotland, May 1 was Beltane, a day dedicated to celebrating the end of winter and the start of summer. Beltane is a “cross-quarter” day, which comes roughly half-way between a solstice and an equinox.

May 2: Disappearing Sirius

Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is disappearing in the evening twilight. Look for the star blazing low in the southwest beginning in early twilight. It sets a couple of hours after sunset.

May 3: Evening Mars

Mars is pushing into the pre-midnight sky, getting brighter as it does so. Tonight, look for the orange planet quite low in the southeast by 11 or 11:30 p.m. The star Antares is close below Mars, with the planet Saturn farther to the lower left of Mars.

May 4: Mu Herculis

Like its constellation, Hercules, the star Mu Herculis is faint and difficult to find. Yet the star is of particular interest because in some ways it seems to be an older version of the Sun, so it’s had plenty of time to give rise to life.

May 5: Head Cases

The star Rasalhague represents the head of Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer, while Rasalgethi is the head of Hercules. Rasalhague climbs into good view in the east by 10:30 p.m., with fainter Rasalgethi above it. They are separated by about the width of three fingers held at arm’s length.

May 6: Mercury Transit

A tiny black dot will cross the face of the Sun early Monday: Mercury, the Sun’s closest planet. The entire event, known as a transit, will be visible across the eastern half of the United States, with the rest of the country seeing most of it.