Jupiter shines his brightest in May, rising in the southeast evening sky at 8:54 p.m. on Tuesday between the waning gibbous moon and Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo. On May 27, Jupiter is only 4 degrees south of the nearly full moon.

Saturn follows, rising about 45 minutes into the morning of May 2, with Mars rising an hour later. On the morning of May 5, Saturn and the waning gibbous moon are less than 2 degrees apart, well within the field of a pair of 7 x 50 binoculars. (You’ll need at least a 3-inch aperture telescope at 50x to see the rings). Mercury can then be seen rising at 5:30 a.m., almost directly in the east.

Venus is conspicuous in the west after sunset, moving from Taurus into Gemini, ending the month right between the twins. On May 17, a sliver of the waxing crescent moon, almost three days old, and Venus can be seen in the field of 7 x 50 binoculars. One normally can spot the two-day-old moon, but the record for naked-eye sighting of the waxing crescent is just 15 ½ hours after the new moon.

On May 21, the first quarter moon sits only a degree above Regulus, the heart of Leo, at 11:30 p.m.

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower occurs before dawn on May 7 and is actually the debris trail from Halley’s Comet. While the shower occasionally peaks at about one a meteor a minute, the radiant of the shower is above the horizon for only the few hours before dawn, and the light from the waning gibbous moon will interfere with this year’s view.

Q&A

Q: I understand that the star projector you use in the planetarium works by projecting light through tiny holes in the starball onto the dome as points of light, or stars. Were all those holes drilled in the correct spots by hand or machine? — Jerry G., Strasburg

A: Your question is well timed. Recently the museum awarded the McKinley Prize to Tom Emmons, Kent State physics professor emeritus, for his five decades of service to the planetarium. Tom, as a teenager back in the ’60s, assisted his father, Richard Emmons, in the design and installation of the planetarium, the operations console, and dozens of projectors.

While the original star projector — a Model Spitz A3P — was machine-drilled, projecting about 1,500 stars, Richard Emmons did indeed drill by hand an additional 1,500 or so stars, using very tiny drill bits and a star chart. That made our Spitz A3P one of the best of those models in the world, offering a splendid rendition of the night sky that one might see under ideal conditions.

Tom has continued to provide ongoing support and maintenance of the planetarium for the last 50-plus years.

Programs

The periodically updated The Universe at Large is presented at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. The planetarium is included with admission to the museum. Children must be 5 years or older to attend.

The planetarium also offers an astronomy program for adults only on the first Monday of every month at 1 p.m., with a show followed by a 30- to 45-minute open lecture/discussion.

For more information visit the planetarium’s blog on the museum’s website, or call 330-455-7043.

David L. Richards is director of the Hoover-Price Planetarium at the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, 800 McKinley Monument Drive NW, Canton, www.mckinleymuseum.org. He can be reached at 330-455-7043, email hooverpriceplanetarium@hotmail.com or read his blog at https://hooverpriceplanetarium.wordpress.com/.