Monthly Skywatchers' Page

For London and the UK

Sun And Nine Planets
The Sun and eight major planets (plus KBO Pluto) to scale. Earth is third planet from the left.


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Introduction

The location of the stars and constellations can be learnt throughout a single year from books, mobile phone applications or planetarium software. Each month of the year, the same stars are visible from a given location. Different stars and constellations are visible as the year progresses. For example, in London, the constellation of Orion is always visible in the evenings of winter months of January and February. Scorpius is visible in the summer months of June and July around midnight.

The planets resemble stars except that, generally, they do not twinkle. Unlike the stars whose patterns are fixed, planets wander through the sky changing their positions amongst the starry background. This means that their periods of visibility change as the relative position of the Earth, Sun and planet vary. In one year Mars may be visible in August at midnight. In another year it may be behind the Sun and invisible from Earth during August.

This page gives the details of visibility for the five naked eye planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. It also gives information about comets, meteor showers and non-regular phenomena like eclipses, transits and occultations.

The Observers' Glossary explains the terms used. Alternatively run the mouse cursor over terms in maroon.


The descriptions below are for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, especially London and the United Kingdom.
The planetary information is valid for any location at the same or similar Latitude (51.5°N).
Note that a degree in the sky is twice the apparent diameter of the Moon.

All times on this page are London (UK) times. This is normally GMT (Greenwich Mean Time also known as Universal Time).
In the United Kingdom, the clocks go forward by one hour for British Summer Time (BST) between mid March and late October.
A 24 hour clock is used so that 7pm is written 19:00.


May 2017

Mercury

Mercury

Mercury is too close to the Sun to be seen this month.

Venus

Venus

Venus continues rising an hour and a half before the Sun. The planet can be glimpsed low in the East as it is very brilliant but is too low down in the morning twilight to be spectacular.

The old crescent Moon will be close to Venus on 22nd.

Mars

Mars

Mars begins the month visible in the West among the stars of Taurus, close to the star, Aldebaran, setting around 9:45pm throughout the month.

During the May the length of the twilight increases so this will render the now faint red planet difficult to see.

After the first ten days of May, the planet will be lost in the evening twilight and will not be visible for several months.

Jupiter

Jupiter

Jupiter is a brilliant evening planet visible for most of the night. The planet is among the stars of Virgo above that constellation's brightest star, Spica. Jupiter is moving retrograde as the faster moving Earth continues overtaking the slower moving Jupiter.

Jupiter is just below the Moon on 7th.

Saturn

Saturn

Saturn is a morning object rising around 11:30pm at the beginning of the month. By the end of May the planet will be rising before 9:30pm. The planet is well South of the equator this year and does not rise very high.

Saturn is among the stars of Sagittarius but its retrograde motion carries it back into Ophiuchus. Look for the yellow star-like planet below the gibbous Moon on 14th.

Through a telescope the magnificent rings are easy to see and this year they are at an open angle. If you have access to a telescope, use the Moon to locate Saturn and look at it through a telescope on a clear night. The sight of the rings is one of the best views in the sky. During 2017, we are looking down onto the planet's North Pole so the rings appear to be wide open. The rings are open wide every fifteen years.

Sun

The Sun

The Sun continues to move northwards, making the days longer in the Northern Hemisphere.

During May, the length of the day increases from 14 hours 51 minutes to 16 hours 17 minutes, an increase of 1 hour 26 minutes. At the beginning of the month the Sun climbs to nearly 54 degrees above the horizon at noon. This increases to over 60 degrees at the end of May.

The 16 hour day occurs on 24th. The 9pm sunset occurs on 25th.

The Sun begins the month in Aries and enters Taurus on 14th. Note that the Zodiac dates do not tie in with astrology as astrologers are using dates from two thousand years ago.

Date Sunrise Midday Sunset Length of Day Sun's Noon Altitude Notes
01-May
05:32
12:57
20:23
14h 51m
53.7°
 
02-May
05:30
12:57
20:25
14h 55m
54.0°
 
03-May
05:28
12:57
20:27
14h 58m
54.3°
Evening Half Moon
04-May
05:26
12:57
20:28
15h 02m
54.6°
 
05-May
05:24
12:57
20:30
15h 05m
54.9°
 
06-May
05:23
12:57
20:32
15h 08m
55.2°
 
07-May
05:21
12:57
20:33
15h 12m
55.4°
Moon close to Jupiter
08-May
05:19
12:56
20:35
15h 15m
55.7°
 
09-May
05:18
12:56
20:36
15h 18m
56.0°
 
10-May
05:16
12:56
20:38
15h 22m
56.2°
Full Moon at 21:42
11-May
05:14
12:56
20:39
15h 25m
56.5°
 
12-May
05:13
12:56
20:41
15h 28m
56.8°
 
13-May
05:11
12:56
20:43
15h 31m
57.0°
 
14-May
05:10
12:56
20:44
15h 34m
57.2°
Moon close to Saturn - Sun enters Taurus
15-May
05:08
12:56
20:46
15h 37m
57.5°
 
16-May
05:07
12:56
20:47
15h 40m
57.7°
 
17-May
05:05
12:56
20:49
15h 43m
57.9°
 
18-May
05:04
12:56
20:50
15h 46m
58.2°
 
19-May
05:02
12:56
20:51
15h 48m
58.4°
Morning Half Moon
20-May
05:01
12:57
20:53
15h 51m
58.6°
 
21-May
05:00
12:57
20:54
15h 54m
58.8°
 
22-May
04:59
12:57
20:56
15h 57m
59.0°
Moon close to Venus
23-May
04:57
12:57
20:57
15h 59m
59.2°
 
24-May
04:56
12:57
20:58
16h 02m
59.4°
The 16 hour day
25-May
04:55
12:57
21:00
16h 04m
59.5°
New Moon at 19:44 - The 9pm sunset
26-May
04:54
12:57
21:01
16h 06m
59.7°
 
27-May
04:53
12:57
21:02
16h 09m
59.9°
 
28-May
04:52
12:57
21:03
16h 11m
60.0°
 
29-May
04:51
12:57
21:05
16h 13m
60.2°
 
30-May
04:50
12:58
21:06
16h 15m
60.3°
 
31-May
04:49
12:58
21:07
16h 17m
60.5°
 

Moon

The Moon

The Moon will be close to Jupiter on 7th.

The Moon will be close to Saturn on 14th.

The Moon will be close to Venus on 22nd.


It is easy to depend on astronomy or CMMS software to perform daily computational activities and to keep track of data. Astronomy enthusiasts can choose from a wide variety of software options, while facility managers may have fewer options if they require CMMS software for their business.


Next Month

Jupiter in the evening. Venus in the morning. Saturn at oposition. Solstice.


All times on this page are London (UK) times.

Sources: Astronomy Now magazine, Cybersky, Starry Night Pro, USA Naval Observatory and UK Nautical Almanac Office.

© 2017 KryssTal
All sky images by Starry Night Pro Plus 6
Eclipse predictions (maps) courtesy of Fred Espenak, NASA's GSFC


Books From Amazon.co.uk


Observers' Glossary

An explanation of the terms used by sky observers. Includes descriptions of how the objects of the solar system behave in the sky as seen from Earth (especially the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes).


KryssTal Related Pages

Tables and data about the Sun, Earth, Moon, planets, asteroids and comets. All terms used are explained.

An account of how various properties of stars can be measured by studying starlight. Includes brightness, distance, luminosity, temperature, mass, radius, density and an introduction to the H-R Diagram.

A table containing a list of the 20 brightest stars in the Earth's sky. Explanations of all the associated terms like magnitude, spectral type and radial velocity.

A detailed account about eclipses, transits and occultations. These are irregular phenomena that can be observed in the sky. Includes eclipse trips around the world with photos and well as photos of recent transists of Mercury and Venus.

An easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in space. Distances in space are represented by the time light takes to travel there.

An easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in time. The chronology of the Universe is compared to a real year.

How humanity came from believing Creation Myths to postulating the Inflationary Big Bang Theory. The key stages in our understanding of our place in the cosmos and the people who broadened our understanding.

What do we mean by the words day, week, month, year? Who invented our calendar? When did the third millennium begin? The relation between time and astronomy.

The force that moves apples and planets. A short introduction to the ideas of Kepler and Newton that culminated with the theory of Universal Gravitation.

A look at the mathematics of a sphere with a section on sundials and the equation of time.


External Skywatching Links

These links will open in a separate window

StarDate Online
An excellent online skywatchers' magazine featuring detailed monthly information about astronomical events.

Astronomy Picture of the Day
A different image each day with an extensive archive and explanations.

Society for Popular Astronomy
Monthly planet and star gazing details with maps for young people.

Telescope House
A London based source of astronomical equipment, telescopes, software, maps and books.

Southern Sky Watch
Sky watchers information for the southern hemisphere.

Starry Night Pro
Superb planetarium software. Simulate the sky from anywhere on the Earth and any time.