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What will I see in Zion's Dark Skies this May?

Updated: May 2, 2023

We welcome May with some interesting notes. The European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission, JUICE, has made a successful launch. It will now embark on an 8 year journey, traveling to our solar system’s biggest planet, and revealing information on Jupiter’s many icy moons.

Spring in the northern hemisphere is known by many as the ‘galaxy season’. Many of the best galaxies in our night sky are located in the constellation Virgo, our harvest queen, which is rising with the coming of spring and ready to show off all her treasures. Below is the Sombrero galaxy (left) and the Whirlpool galaxy (right), two of the most famous galaxies in our skies. They are wonderful examples of edge-on and face-on viewing perspectives.

Image Credit: Stargazing Zion

We welcome the new month with a beautiful full moon on May 5th, the Flower moon, named for the spring blooms that are beginning to pop up throughout the Northern Hemisphere. May 5th also brings the peak of the Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. These meteors are produced as Earth passes through the leftover trail of Halley’s Comet. As the name suggests, the meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, however they will be observable throughout the sky. The best time to catch these ‘shooting stars’ is just after midnight, at a rate of around 30 meteors/hour.

Image Credit: SkySafari - Looking south on May 1st

Venus continues as our bright evening ‘star’ this month, the brightest object visible in the western sky shortly after sunset. As the month wears on, it slowly moves out of Taurus and into Gemini, getting closer and closer to our red planet Mars. This month we see Mars finish its journey through Gemini, reaching the constellation of cancer by May’s end.

Image Credit: SkySafari - Looking south on May 15th

In the beginning of the month, Mercury is just to the east of the sun, barely visible during sunset. By the end of the month, Mercury has made its way around the sun and will appear as a morning object, just before sunrise. It is at its greatest elongation from the sun, or farthest distance as observed from Earth, on May 29th. Look for it at the end of the month by Jupiter, also a morning object at this time of year, rising just before the sun in the constellation Pisces. Also in the morning, rising a couple hours before the sun in the constellation Aquarius, is Saturn.

Image Credit: SkySafari - Looking south on May 31st

By month’s end, Orion has made his final stand for the season, being lost into the glare of the sun. The winter triangle and cold weather goes with it. Look high in the southern sky for the spring triangle and the constellation Virgo, our harvest queen.

Winter Triangle: Image Credit - AstroBackyard

Spring Triangle: Image Credit -

Astronomical Dates and Times:

Full Moon: May 5 (Flower Moon)

Last Quarter: May 12

New Moon: May 19

First Quarter: May 27

Virgin, UT Mountain Daylight Time

Astro Twilight End May 1: 10:01 PM

Astro Twilight End May 15: 10:18 PM

Astro Twilight End May 30: 10:35 PM

5/5 - Eta-Aquariid Meteor Shower peaks at 30 meteors per hour

5/29 Mercury at greatest western elongation, visible in the morning before the sun rises

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