WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

What's Up for May 17-23

Posted May 17, 2020 11:08 a.m. EDT

Mercury and Saturn will be less than 2 degrees apart the end of the week.

If you've not seen Mercury before, Venus will point the way at the end of the week. The ISS will be visible in both the predawn and evening skies several times this week.  Tonight's pass at 8:49 pm is the best of the week, with several other good ones in the wee hours of the morning.  Check NASA's Spot the Station for complete details and to sign up for email or text alerts.

Sun May 17:

The ISS will pass nearly overhead, rising from the southwest at 8:49 pm setting on the northeastern horizon six minutes later.

Mon May 18:

Jupiter and Saturn will be within five degrees of each other, rising around 1:30 am and visible until sunrise.

Tue May 19:

Look for the star Vega in the east-northeastern evening sky, then look for the skewed box of 4 stars forming the rest of the constellation Lyra, the Lyre, hanging beneath.

Another decent ISS pass begins at 8:51 pm from the west, setting six minutes later.

Ten Starlink satellites will rise from the northwest beginning at 10 pm, separated by 10-20 seconds each. At magnitude 2.9, this is the brightest Starlink pass of the week. For comparison, Polaris (the pole star) at the end of the handle of the Big Dipper is about 2.5 times brighter.

SpaceX plans the eighth launch of Starlink satellites from the Cape Canaveral at 3:10 am. You can watch live via YouTube.

Wed May 20:

(Astronomical) summer is exactly a month away. Look for Vega, Deneb and Altair, the stars of the summer triangle asterism rising in the east by midnight. By the solstice, they'll all be above the horizon by shortly after sunset.

Thursday-Saturday:

Look west evening shortly after sunset for Venus and Mercury, just a few degrees apart. Find Venus (it's the brightest object in the western sky once the Sun sets), then look for Mercury at the down and to the left on Thursday.

Venus outshines Mercury by a factor of 30 because Mercury is 3.5 times further away and not as reflective as Venus' cloud tops.

On Friday, Mercury will be up and to the left of Venus.

On Saturday, look for the thin, day-old, waxing crescent Moon below Venus and Mercury low on the northwestern horizon.

Mercury and Saturn, May 21-23

Looking ahead to next week:

The first launch of humans from American soil since 2011 is planned for next Wednesday at 4:32 pm. NASA Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will travel to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.