Milky Way Evenings | May 2023 Sky Happenings

May 2, 2023
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Editor’s Note: We are looking up as HMNS Astronomer James Wooten explains the sky happenings for the month of May and the collision of our Milky Way against the horizon.

Venus is even higher in the evening sky this month. It is slightly higher in the west at dusk each evening.

Mars is now high in the west at dusk. As Earth continues to pull away from Mars, Mars is a little dimmer each evening. In May 2023, though, Mars is still a first-magnitude object; as bright as the brighter stars at night.

Saturn is in the morning sky this month; face southeast just before dawn.

Jupiter emerges into the morning sky this month. Look low in the east as day breaks.

Milky Way time lapse. NASA
View (part of a time lapse sequence) of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy visible over an Earth limb as seen by the Expedition 44 crew. Astronaut Kjell Lindgren captured a lightning strike from space so bright that it lights up the space station’s solar panels. Credit: NASA/Kjell Lindgren

A swath of brilliant winter stars sets in the west at dusk. Orion, the Hunter, is still visible in the west as May begins. His two dogs, represented by Sirius and Procyon, are to his left. Gemini, the Twins, are above Orion. The Big Dipper is above the North Star, with its handle pointing to the right. From that handle, you can ‘arc to Arcturus’ and then ‘speed on to Spica’; those stars are high in the east and in the southeast, respectively, at dusk. Leo, the Lion, passes almost overhead at dusk.

As Orion and his dogs set, look for Antares, brightest star of Scorpius, the Scorpion, to rise in the southeast. At the same time, Vega, brightest star of the Summer Triangle, appears low in the northeast. These stars remind us that summer is on the way.

On May evenings, the plane of the Milky Way roughly coincides with the horizon. (At Houston’s latitude, the two planes are off by less than three degrees). We are therefore looking straight out of the Milky Way plane when we look up early on a May evening. Thus May evening skies have fewer bright stars, as we see most of the brightest stars in the Milky Way plane which is ringing the horizon.

May 2023 sky map
This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on May 1, 9 pm CDT on May 15, and dusk on May 31. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom.

The Big Dipper is as high as it gets in the north. Leo, the Lion, is almost overhead at dusk. From the Big Dipper’s handle, arc to Arcturus and then speed on to Spica in the south. As Orion and his dogs set in the west, Vega and Antares peek above the horizon, heralding the approaching summer. Watch Venus approach Mars in the west.

Moon Phases in May 2023

Full May 5, 12:34 p.m.

Last Quarter May 12, 9:28 a.m.

New May 19, 10:53 a.m.

1st Quarter May 27, 10:22 a.m.

Our George Observatory is now open every Saturday night for observing! Purchase tickets in advance on our website.

Clear Skies!

Want more sky happenings? Take a look back at what you may have missed in April.

Authored By James Wooten

James is the Planetarium Astronomer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. He teaches students every school morning in the planetarium, and also answers astronomy questions from the public.

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