Mars rises through the constellation Taurus the Bull over May's evenings, appearing to remain stationary above the western horizon.
A bright slice of the waxing crescent moon lies only 3 degrees from the rusty planet on May 7, and both are right above Aldebaran, the eye of the Bull. Three nights later, the moon sits right in the Beehive, or Praesepe, in Cancer. Jupiter rises in the first minutes of May, with Saturn following an hour and a half later.
You can then spot Venus right before sunrise, before she gets lost in the morning's light. In the early morning hours of May 21 and 22, the two gas giants bracket the nearly full moon in the southeast.
Mercury brightens through the first two weeks of May, and then becomes lost in the sun's glare. Over the nights of May 17-20, Mars is within less than a degree of M35, a beautiful open cluster in Gemini.
The cluster presents a large apparent diameter almost exactly the same as that of the full moon about 28 arc minutes.
At magnitude +5.2, it is visible to the naked eye under good conditions, and the two should be a splendid sight through binoculars. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is prominent in May.
While most major meteor showers peak at a certain time, this shower lasts about a week, and centered on May 5. The meteors are part of the debris trail from Halley's Comet. Best viewed in the hours before dawn, the Eta Aquarids produce about one meteor a minute.
Q: Does the Sun move through space? Eli B., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
A: Yes, at over 500,000 mph around the center of the Milky Way galaxy along with the whole solar system. We are about 25,000 light-years from the galaxy’s center and 25,000 light-years away from the rim. It takes us about 230 million years to make just one revolution, which means modern humans haven’t traveled yet around the center even one time. Relative to the local standard of rest (a point in space that has a velocity equal to the average velocity of stars in the sun’s neighborhood) we are moving at about 43,000 mph toward Vega in Lyra. The sun also rotates on its axis, and because it’s a gas it rotates differently at the equator (once every 24 days), than at its poles (once every 35 days).
The Hoover-Price Planetarium continues to present the periodically updated “The Universe at Large” at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. The planetarium seats 65, and admission is included with admission to the museum. Children must be 5 years or older to attend, and the first Monday of the month program at 2 p.m. is for adults. The planetarium is located inside the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, 800 McKinley Monument Drive, N.W., in Canton. For more information, visit the planetarium’s blog on the museum’s website, or call the museum at 330-455-7043.
David L. Richards is director of the Hoover-Price Planetarium at the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum. He can be reached at 330-455-7043, email firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at https://hooverpriceplanetarium.wordpress.com/.