May 4, 2020 – What astronomy highlights can you see in the sky in May 2020? Venus, Sirius and the Milky Way. With so many of us staying home these days, here’s a look into the sky at dusk and dawn with an eye toward the vast stretches of wide open space right above our heads.
The Final “Supermoon” of 2020
The next full Moon will be on Thursday morning, May 7, at 3:45 a.m. PDT. This full Moon is a supermoon — the last of 2020’s four consecutive supermoons.
The term “supermoon” was coined by the astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and refers to either a new or full Moon that occurs within 90% of perigee, its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit. Under this definition, in a typical year there can be 3 or 4 full supermoons in a row and (about half a year apart) 3 or 4 new supermoons in a row. In practice, what catches the public’s attention are the full Moons that appear biggest and brightest each year.
For 2020, the four full Moons from February to May meet this 90% threshold, with the full Moons in March and April were nearly tied in size and brightness.
Monday, May 4
On Monday, May 4, the planet Mercury will be passing on the far side of the Sun as seen from the Earth, called superior conjunction. Because Mercury orbits inside of the orbit of Earth, Mercury will be shifting from the morning sky to the evening sky and will begin emerging from the glow of dusk about 30 minutes after sunset on the west-northwestern horizon after May 8, 2020. Mercury will begin appearing above the horizon at the time evening twilight ends after May 16, 2020.
Tuesday, May 5
The Eta-Aquariid meteor shower will peak around the early morning of May 5, 2020, but the light of the nearly full Moon will interfere, as it will not set until after morning twilight begins.
Tuesday night, at 8:03 PM PDT, the Moon will be at perigee, its closest to the Earth for this orbit.
Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, May 5 to 6, 2020, the bright star appearing to the lower right of the nearly full Moon will be Spica.
Thursday, May 7
The final “supermoon” of 2020 will be on May 7, 2020.
Friday, May 8
After about Friday evening, May 8, 2020, the planet Mercury will begin emerging from the glow of dusk on the west-northwestern horizon (depending upon viewing conditions) about 30 minutes after sunset.
Tuesday, May 12
Tuesday morning, May 12, 2020, the planets Jupiter and Saturn will appear to the upper left of the waning gibbous Moon.
Friday, May 15
On Friday morning, May 15, 2020, the planet Mars will appear above the waning crescent Moon.
Saturday, May 23
On Saturday evening, May 23, 2020, if you have a clear view of the horizon toward the west-northwest, you may be able to see the thin waxing crescent Moon below the planets Venus and Mercury.
May 28 & 29
On Thursday evening into early Friday morning, May 28 to 29, 2020, the bright star Regulus will appear to the left of the waxing crescent Moon.