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).

May 24: Grand M81

Under clear, dark skies you can spot the spiral galaxy M81 with binoculars. At nightfall, it stands below the bowl of the Big Dipper, which is high in the north. The galaxy looks like an oval smudge of light that is almost as wide as the Moon.

May 25: The Centaur

Late spring is a good time to look for the constellation Centaurus, the mythological half-man, half-horse. His head and shoulders stand due south, quite low above the horizon, about three hours after sunset.

May 26: Faint Constellations

The little-known constellations Canes Venatici and Coma Berenices stand high overhead in early evening. They reside between two easy-to-find stars: Alkaid, which is the end of the Big Dipper’s handle, and Denebola, the tail of Leo, the lion.

May 27: Arcturus

The giant star Arcturus adds a splash of color to the sky tonight. It is two-thirds of the way up the southeastern sky as darkness falls, and shines with a distinctly yellow-orange hue. It’s the brightest star in Bootes, the herdsman.

May 28: Last-Quarter Moon

The Moon reaches last quarter at 7:12 a.m. CDT tomorrow, as it lines up at a right angle to the line between Earth and the Sun. Sunlight will illuminate about half of the lunar disk as the Moon rises in the wee hours of the morning.

May 29: Ursa Major

Ursa Major, the great bear, is high in the north this evening, and rotates to the northwest after midnight. Its most prominent stars form the Big Dipper. The dipper’s bowl forms the bear’s hindquarters, while the handle forms its tail.

May 30: Saturn Opposition

The giant planet Saturn will reach opposition on Friday night, standing opposite the Sun in the sky. It will rise at sunset and remain in the sky all night. It will be closest to Earth shortly after opposition, so it is shining brightest for the year.