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Spring is in the air: Viewing May skies in Arizona

(Flickr/Goulven Champenois)

Spring is in the air and there are some amazing sights to be seen in our May skies in Arizona!

To view many of these great sights, find a place that is dark and is as far away from the lights of the city.

Even in the brighter cities, you can still participate in some basic astronomy and view some interesting objects.

For the majority of us, we will find a fascination with the Moon and as May opens up, we note that a new lunar cycle, #1192, begins with the new moon of May 4.

Modern lunar cycles have been tracked since the first one, back on Jan. 17, 1923, with the Brown Lunation Number.

The moon moves around the Earth once in a period of phases known as the synodic month. That period is some 29.53 days long.

A sidereal month is the time that it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth. That period is some 27.3 days long.

Either way, we get to view a fresh waxing Moon in our Arizona skies, as early as May 5, low in the west at sunset.

The moon then moves on to its first quarter phase on the 12th and finally on the next full moon of May on the 18.

This will be the Full Flower Moon at 2:11 p.m. Mountain Time on the 18th.

Last quarter moon will occur on the 26th.

The moon is a most interesting object to view and one that is easy to see in moderate-sized telescopes. You will get to see the many mountain regions and vast crater fields on the lunar surface.

The moon in May will be closest to Earth on the 13th (perigee) and at its farthest on the 26th (apogee).

The Moon will be close to Mars on the 8th, Jupiter on the 20th and Saturn on the 22nd.

The month of May has some interesting planets to look at!

Dr. Sky suggests that you begin your 2019 Jupiter observations soon, as the might planet rises in the southeast sky around 11 p.m. local time.

This year Jupiter will come to opposition on the night of June 10 at a distance of some 398,000,000 miles from Earth.

Now is the time to begin your observations of the planet with a small to moderate sized telescope. Jupiter will appear rather large by planet standards and it will be easy to view the four main moons and lots of detail on the cloud tops of Jupiter.

Jupiter is well placed, low in the southern sky just before dawn on these May mornings.

Saturn is another planet that will be easy to view in the morning sky, rising around 1 a.m.

Local time in the constellation of Sagittarius, Saturn is some 27 degrees to the left of brilliant Jupiter.

The rings of Saturn are most amazing in even the smallest of telescopes.

May offers some great objects to look at in our Arizona skies!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.

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