Visible Planets May 2015 – Mars, Jupiter and Saturn

For us, this is a useful post.  We wrote about the visible planets in April, here is the May version.  It gives us the basics in one place, which kind of helps!

We’ve got our own Jupiter photo below. x The post tells us something about Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – simply a recap. It reminds us where the planets are in the sky, theoretically!

Here are the links for July:

Visible Planets July 2015 – Mercury and Venus and 
Visible Planets July 2015 – Mars, Jupiter and Saturn

Mars

Mars
Mars

Mars has a red hue to it because iron oxides (rust) covers its surface. Most of the time, Mars glows dimly in the night sky, except when it is directly opposite the Sun, (opposition). When Mars is in opposition, usually every 2 years, it’s at its largest and brightest. Generally, Mars is not as bright as Venus but it’s luminosity is largest as its orbit get closer to Earth. (Its elliptical orbit means that it can vary from 50 to 400 million km from Earth.)

Mars is the first of the outer planets, those with orbits further away from the Sun than Earth’s. As such it takes Mars longer to orbit and so appears to stay in a constellation longer than the inner planets.

Mars – as of May 2015:

imageWe cannot see Mars this month.  At the moment, it’s hidden in the Sun’s glare. It is out of view for 3 months.

In late July, it reappears in the dawn sky.

(By May 2016 Mars will be in the Scorpius constellation when it will be in opposition.)

Jupiter

Jupiter
Jupiter

Jupiter is the brightest object in the night sky after Venus. It is a shining white colour.

If you look with binoculars you may just see its 4 largest moons.  A telescope may pick up its bands and Red Spot.

Also, Jupiter is the largest object in the Solar System except for the Sun.  Jupiter takes longer than Mars to orbit the Sun, so once found, see it in the same constellation for a long time.

Jupiter – as of May 2015

Venus and Jupiter: Anne Burgess
Venus and Jupiter: Anne Burgess

Jupiter is well past opposition.  It’s position is south / south-west in the evening sky. It is visible after sunset.

Jupiter’s brightness is less, it’s getting dimmer.  It is in Cancer moving slowly eastwards towards Leo.

Jupiter moves to the west through the night.

 At the start of May it will set around 2am and at the end of May it sets at around midnight.

On May 4th particularly, with good binoculars you might see the equatorial bands, Red Spot and Jupiter’s moons. (A small telescope is a better bet, but we haven’t got any, so we’ll try with the binoculars).

Between May 22nd and May 24th the moon passes close to Jupiter.

Our Jupiter!
Our Jupiter!

Ok, I understand this photo of Jupiter is no masterpiece, but we’re still proud of it!

Saturn

Saturn: NASA
Saturn: NASA

To us Saturn looks like a small, yellow-white light, yet it is easy to see. Saturn is not as bright as Mars or Jupiter.

It is known as the Golden Planet. It takes a long time to orbit the Sun, so it will be in the same star group for a while.

Saturn – as of May 2015

Saturn and Mars
Saturn and Mars

Saturn rises in the evening.  It lies in Scorpius, close to the left-hand star in the fan.

Saturn is visible through most of the night. It rises in the southeast at nightfall.  

By the end of May it rises as soon as it is dark. It reaches opposition on May 23rd. It will rise in the East, reaching its highest point in the sky around midnight, then set in the west at sunrise.

Watch for the bright waning gibbous moon to shine fairly close to Saturn for several days, centered around May 4. Using a telescope you can see Saturn’s rings.

A Note to You and Me

These are our (my) notes for May 2015.  Here are We wrote about the visible planets in April and we have just added May’s post to help us planet spot. The posts have been useful for us.

Here are the links: Visible Planets and Visible Planets May 2015 – Mercury and Venus We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post and it is useful.

As ever, we’d love to hear from you.  If you have any tips on looking for Earth’s Planets, please let us know. If you spot any mishaps, please let us know.

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