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Arizona’s May skies amaze with Milky Way, planets and more in view

(Pixabay Photo)

With May nearly over, there are still many amazing objects to view in our Arizona skies.

Get set for some great nights before the summer monsoon season gets going.

The moon reached its new phase on Tuesday. This is actually the best time of the month to view many faint objects.

You can actually see the amazing glow of the Milky Way from more remote locations as well as experience the brightest section of our galaxy as you look south around 3 a.m. Arizona time.

The region you are viewing at that time lies deep in the central hub of the galaxy, in the constellation of Sagittarius.

Get out those binoculars for other amazing treats.

Among them are the great Lagoon Nebula, located at the top right portion of Sagittarius, as well as the star clouds to the right in the lower tail of Scorpius.

As you view at these amazing star clouds under clear and moonless skies, know that you are looking in toward the central nucleus of the Milky Way, some 27,000 light years away.

As you look at this amazing region of the sky, the planet Saturn lies just to the left of these star clouds, in Sagittarius.

Saturn is some 863,000,000 miles from Earth and looks incredible through a small telescope. The ring system is most amazing to view.

Saturn will come to opposition on June 27, rising in the southeast sky at sunset, and will be in the sky all night.

As you marvel at all this, don’t miss out on the next brightest planet, Mars, to the left of Saturn by 15 degrees or so. Mars is now in the constellation of Capricorn and will remain in that region of the sky for many months to come.

Mars is orange in color to the eye and is rapidly approaching the Earth, for the best opposition in some 15 years.

Now some 65,000,000 miles from Earth and closing in fast, Mars will get within 35,000,000 miles of Earth in late July, making it a most memorable sight in even the smallest of scopes.

In a moderate telescope, Mars will appear as a globe that is illuminated some 90 percent. The planet will reveal a detailed view of the southern polar cap.

The cap should be bright enough to be seen in most telescopes, but it may fade from view as Mars gets closer to Earth because Martian storms may kick up violent dust and obscure many of the features on the surface.

The seasons change on Mars on May 23, as this is the date of a Martian equinox, with northern autumn and southern spring about to begin.

Mars will be the planet to see in all of 2018.

Finally, your evening sky is graced with the amazing planet Venus, found high in the northwest sky at dusk.

Venus is so bright because it reflects most of the light from the sun off of its massive clouds.

Venus is some 126,000,000 miles from Earth at this time and closing in on us at the rate of around 24,000 mph.

Venus is the planet which can come closest to Earth of all the planets, with a distance as small as 25,000,000 miles.

Print your very own May 2018 star chart.

View satellites, dates and times of passage.


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