Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy and eclipses.
What To Watch For In The Night Sky This Week: May 25-31, 2020
This week it’s all about a crescent Moon on display with Mercury and a fast-sinking Venus—all visible together on Memorial Day in the US—as well as a rather special spaceship, and a quirk of urban design. As the Moon waxes this week it will also pass some notable bright stars, which is a great chance to learn a few constellations.
All the while, Venus appears to move closer to the Sun. It’s visible only in twilight. Very, very soon it will be gone into the Sun’s glare.
This week will also see SpaceX launch two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), before the week ends, for New York City residents only, with “Manhattanhenge”—when the setting sun is aligned with Manhattan’s east-west street grid.
Monday, May 25, 2020: Moon, Mercury and Venus
Got outside 30 minutes after sunset and you’ll see, in the western sky, bright Venus above the sunset point, with much dimmer Mercury (probably visible only though binoculars) between it and a beautiful 10%-lit crescent Moon. Have a look for “earthshine” on the darkened (left-hand) limb of the Moon—that’s sunlight being reflected off the Earth back on to the lunar surface.
Tuesday, May 26, 2020: Moon in Gemini
Tonight an 18%-lit crescent Moon will shine just to the left of the main bright stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux. Visible high in the southwest after dark, you’ll see the Moon approaching and the forming a line with Pollux in the middle, and Castor on the right. Both stars are double stars 34 and 50 light years away, respectively.
Wednesday, May 27, 2020: Moon and the Beehive Cluster
If you have a pair of binoculars, find the 27%-illuminated Moon high in the southwest and look just two Moon widths around it for the Beehive Cluster, one of the nearest open clusters to Earth, in the constellation of Cancer. Its 1,000 stars are a beautiful sight in binoculars.
Wednesday, May 27, 2020: ‘Launch America’
Today is also when—if all goes to schedule—SpaceX will launch two NASA astronauts to the ISS as part of the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission. It will be the first time astronauts have gone into space from American soil since the last Space Shuttle mission in 2011. NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will blast-off on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:33 p.m. EDT/20:33 GMT. You can watch it live on YouTube with either NASA TV or SpaceX.
Friday, May 29, 2020: ‘May Manhattanhenge: Half-Sun’
Here’s a sight only for residents of Manhattan, New York City; the sight of the setting Sun between the buildings as our star aligns perfectly with the city’s transit grid. It’s been called “Manhattanhenge” (after Stonehenge) and the “Manhattan Solstice.” Today the Sun will set dead-on the grid, so a half-Sun only will be aligned. More details here.
Saturday, May 30, 2020: ‘May Manhattanhenge: Full Sun’
It’s the same as yesterday, but today the whole of the Sun’s disk will appear just above the road, dead-on the grid, a fraction before it sinks below the horizon.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.