May 2015 astronomy events

SaturnA nearly full moon is near Spica at the start of May 2015. The moon passes the star on the 2nd, becomes full on the 4th, and is next to Saturn on the 5th. Last quarter is on the 11th. The moon passes in front of Uranus on the 15th. A new moon passes near Mars on the 18th, but the red planet is very difficult to pick out in the glow after sunset. Try to find the thin crescent near Mercury and Aldebaran the next evening. A thicker crescent is near Venus on the 21st. A first quarter moon is by Regulus on the 25th. And a waxing gibbous moon is near Spica again on the 29th.

That lunar occultation of Uranus on the 15th is a daytime event for parts of South America. If you can be on a boat in the Pacific Ocean west of Chile or Peru, you can see it at night.

Some people in very far northern North America may be able to see the moon pass in front of Aldebaran on the 19th.

For viewers on the Arabian peninsula, an asteroid named 1669 Dagmar occults Regulus on the 24th at about 16:47 UT. This is the brightest star to be occulted by an asteroid in 2015.

Mercury is at greatest elongation 21.2° east of the sun on the evening of the 7th. It’s at inferior conjunction on the 30th. Venus is next to Pollux the same night.

Saturn is up all night on the 23rd. The ringed planet’s northern hemisphere is tilted toward us broadly enough to reveal the gas ball’s shadow on the rings behind it. Saturn’s a good view all month as it moves from Acrab in Scorpio toward the dim star Theta Librae.

Don’t expect an easy view of Mars this month. It’s heading westward in the sky toward solar conjunction in the middle of next month.

Venus starts May near Alnath in Taurus. It’s heading eastward and is near Mebsuta in Gemini on the 16th. Its conjunction with Pollux on the 30th isn’t particularly close—about 4° southeast of the star. It’s just 0.5° from Kappa Geminorum.

After being stationary east of Cancer in April, Jupiter is heading eastward again toward Leo. The big planet is still closer to the crab than the lion at the end of May.

The still fairly full moon interferes with the Eta Aquarids meteor shower which peaks on the 5th and 6th. But you may be able to spot a few bright ones. These meteors come from the dust of Comet Halley.