Eyes on the skies — May

Welcome to the Ontario Parks “Eyes on the Skies” series. This space (see what we did there?) will cover a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.

While spring “technically” begins in March, most of us living in cold climates tend to celebrate May as the true start to the season.

Here are our astronomical highlights for May, 2023:

The sun

Having passed the spring equinox, the sun continues to rise (and set) further north of due east (and due west). And, as usual, when the sun appears more northerly in the sky, the full moon that month appears almost equally further south.

a round sun setting in the orange sky over a dark horizon

Sunrise and sunset times: 

May 1 May 15 May 30
Sunrise 6:12 am 5:54 am 5:39 am
Midday 1:23 pm 1:22 pm 1:23 pm
Sunset 8:34 pm 8:51 pm 9:08 pm

The moon

The moon has long captivated observers of all ages. May’s lunar phases of the moon occur as follows:

may lunar calendar

The planets

Venus continues to be dominant in the western sky at twilight and well into the night. As a result of its position on the eclipse and the late setting sun, the planet reaches an almost record setting time (nearly four hours after sunset) of 12:40 a.m.!

graphics of venus and the moon
Evening of May 22, evening of May 23. Image generated by SkySafari Pro 6.0

Keen sighted observers can easily find Venus in the evening by looking for the moon on the nights of May 22 or May 23 (see images below), then using binoculars to find the planet — it should appear as a bright dot.

Once found in binoculars (and if the sky is clear of haze or cloud) you should be able to view the planet with just your eye alone!

Meteor showers

On the night of May 5 into the morning of May 6, you can enjoy the Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower.

While this meteor shower is not nearly as famous nor prolific as the Perseids, Geminids, or Quadrantids, it can be quite enjoyable to watch especially in the pre-dawn early morning hours.

Because this year’s shower falls close to full moon, only a few of the brightest meteors may be seen.

On any given night in the dark skies of provincial parks, you might see as many as five to 10 meteors per hour, especially after midnight!

Featured constellations

In this month’s featured constellations, we will first discuss two Anishinaabek constellations that are prominent at this time of the year: Madoodiswan (the Sweat Lodge) and Noondeshin Bemaadizid (the Exhausted Bather).

Then we’ll discuss the traditional Western constellations.

Madoodiswan (the Sweat Lodge) and Madoodoowasiniig

Madoodiswan appears amongst the same stars as the Greek constellation of Corona Borealis, and is of high significance for many of Indigenous peoples.

For a detailed description of these constellations as well as their importance, please see are full article here.

constellations chart

Boötes the Herdsman, Virgo the Maiden, and Libra the Scales

In last month’s post, we featured the Ursa Major, the Great Bear (Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor, the Little Bear (Little Dipper).

In this month’s edition, we will talk about constellations that are ideal for warm weather observation, Boötes the Herdsman, Virgo the Maiden and Libra the Scales. 

constellations

Find more information on this month’s constellations.

This completes our review of May skies!