Crescent Moon Joins Planets
The planets continue waltzing around the springtime sky for the remainder of May. On May 13, the five planets will have minimal separation from one end of the alignment to the other. All five planets fit in a 33-degree span. From the highest to the lowest, the order is Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Mercury.
The young crescent moon joins the planets on May 13. From May 13 until May 16, the tiny waxing moon appears a bit larger and becomes a useful spotter to locate the planets.
On May 13, go out about 40 minutes after sunset. Look just above the WNW horizon. You may need binoculars to locate the hairline crescent moon. Mercury is a little to the moon’s right. Mercury has faded to 2nd magnitude and is very low on the horizon. Saturn is to the moon’s upper left. Still higher up shines Venus, the brightest object in tonight’s sky. Just below Venus is the faint orange colored Mars. Jupiter shines to Venus’s upper left.
The most spectacular moon- planet pairing occurs on May 14. Look west after sunset to behold the moon and Venus shining a mere 1-degree apart. The crescent moon will look like it is embracing a grayish-black full moon. This phenomenon called the “old moon in the new moon’s arms.” This is caused when sunlight bounces off Earth, reflects back up to the dark part of the moon and then back to Earth again.
On May 15, look west in twilight for the crescent moon. Jupiter is to the upper left. Saturn is to the lower right. Just below Venus is faint Mars and farther down is Saturn. Mercury is very dim and low on the horizon.
The waxing moon says good-by to the planet’s gathering on May 16. Jupiter shines to the moon’s lower right. The Gemini Twins, Pollux and Castor, are 5 degrees above and left of the moon.
As the month of May progresses, first Saturn and then Mars drift away from Venus. Jupiter will come down to meet Venus near the end of May for a dramatic encounter. Until then, happy stargazing!