Society News and Night Sky Notes – May 2000

Society News Headlines

  • May 5th: Five planets , plus Sun and Moon, grouped together in 26° of the Sky at 08:08UT.
  • May 5th: Mars 5° North of moon.
  • May 5th: Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower peak.
  • May 5th: Public Open Night at LAS Pex Hill Observatory, 19:30 – 21:30.
  • May 6th: Moon at Perigee.
  • May 8th: Neptune stationary
  • May 8th: Jupiter in solar conjunction.
  • May 9th: Mercury at superior conjunction.
  • May 10th: Saturn in solar conjunction.
  • May 11th: Comet 17P/Holmes at perihelion (2.166 AU).
  • May 12th: LAS Members Night at Pex Hill Observatory, 19:30 – 21:30 (Late if clear.)
  • May 13th: Webb Society AGM, at Rutherford-Appleton Labs, Didcot, Oxon at 10:30am.
  • May 13th: Mercury at Perihelion.
  • May 14th: Ceres stationary.
  • May 17th: Venus passes 0.1° from Jupiter, closest conjunction since 1892. Too close to Sun.
  • May 19th: Liverpool Astronomical Society AGM at 7pm Crypt Concert Room, RC Catheral – Followed by members Observational Reports.
  • May 19th: Mercury 1.1° North of Mars.
  • May 19th: Mars 6° North of Aldebaran.
  • May 19th: Mercury 7° North of Aldebaran.
  • May 22nd: Moon at apogee.
  • May 24th: Neptune 1.2° North of Moon.
  • May 25th: Uranus 1.5° North of Moon.
  • May 25th: Uranus stationary.
  • May 26th: Comet C/1994 N4 (Linear) at perihelion (5.497AU).
  • May 30th: European Space Agency, 25th Birthday (1975)
  • May 31st: BAA Ordinary Meeting at 17:45hrs Savile Row, London.


Will it be cloudy to-night?, ask the The U.K. Goverment Met Office Weather service. To make your own star chart fo your location at any time, Click Here.

The Sun and Moon

All times are in BRITISH SUMMER TIME (BST). Times For Observer in Liverpool, Merseyside, England, U.K.

Please note change to BST

Latitude 53 degs 24 mins North.
Longitude +3.0 degs West.

           Apr 30th     May 5th     10th      15th      20th      25th        30th
SUNRISE    05:40        05:30      05:20     05:12     05:04     04:58       04:52
SUNSET     20:40        20:49      20:58     21:06     21:14     21:21       21:28
on 4th
at 05h:13m
on 10th
at 21h:02m
on 18th
at 08h:35m
on 26th
at 12h:45m



Although it’s not as rare an event as popularly rumoured, there really is an uncommon grouping, NOT alignment, of the Sun, Moon, and five naked-eye planets in early May. On the 5th they will all be gathered along a span of the ecliptic 27° long. On May 17th the Sun and planets, (with the Moon having moved away), will fit within a span of just 20° of sky. Venus and Jupiter have their closest conjunction, (42′ acrsecs,) since 1892 on May 17th. This will make a grand sight… well sadly not, because the Sun is smack in the middle of this span, hiding even the bright planets in its glare. Only Mercury and Mars will be visible low in the North-Western sky after sunset by mid-month. However the grouping of planets in September 2040 will be better observed, with all the planets East of the setting Sun, see below.

Diagrams of Planetary Groupings for February 5th, 1962, May 5th, 2000 and September 9th, 2040

Diagrams of Planetary Groupings for February 5th, 1962, May 5th, 2000 and September 9th, 2040


Mercury is at superior conjunction with the Sun on the 9th as seen from the Earth but quickly begins its second favourable evening apparition this year on the 20th. It will very quickly become prominent, although low down, in the North West, lying as it does in the constellation of Taurus and moving into Gemini by month’s end. This table describes the apparition as it progresses. There is no conjunction between Mercury and the Moon this Moon.


Venus will remain an unfavourable object between now and early September when it will become visible in the evening sky.


Mars sets just after 22h by the end of the month and is now too close to the Sun to be easily visible.

MARSWATCH – latest observations of the red planet.


  • Hygeia is at opposition on May 25th at mag 9.2 in Scorpius
  • Ceres can be found in Virgo at mag 7.6
  • Vesta is in Sagittarius at mag 7.0.

For More information on Asteroids Click Here.


Jupiter is at solar conjunction on the 8th is also unfavourable. It will swap positions with Saturn on the 28th with Jupiter passing slowly 1° North of Saturn very low down to the right of the rising Sun. Such conjunctions between these two planets occur roughly once every 19 years.

Launched in October 1989, the Galileo Jupiter Probe entered orbit around the great planet on December 7th 1995. The Project Galileo Homepage will give you up-to-date information and the very latest images returned.


Saturn is at solar conjunction just two days after Jupiter on the 10th, thus unfavourable for observations until End of June.


Uranus is starting to become favourable among the stars of Capricornus. It shines at Mag 5.8.

 Positions for the 1st May:

                          R.A.                   DEC                    TRANSIT TIME           MAG
                      21h:32m:51s           -15°:16':48"                   07h:07m             5.8

Bluish Neptune is also in Capricornus at this time less brighter than Uranus. Both should be seen in dark sky location with clear skies.

Positions for the 1st May:

                          R.A.                   DEC                    TRANSIT TIME           MAG
                      20h:35m:36s           -18°:25':00"                   06h:10m           7.9


Best time to look for the almost 14 mag planet is around New Moon. The dates below will be a guide for planning observations.

Positions for May are when pluto's elongation angle is greater than 90°.

DATE                      R.A.                   DEC                   TRANSIT TIME
May  10th              16h:48m:35s            -11°:01':22"                 01h:48m
May  20th              16h:47m:35s            -10°:59':12"                 01h:08m
May  30th              16h:46m:31s            -10°:57':34"                 00h:27mm

On June 1st Pluto at 13.7 Mag reaches opposition in Ophiuchus. It can be found between Zeta Ophiuchi and 20 Ophiuchi.You will need an 8-inch or larger telescope and the best time to see Pluto is when the Moon is not around. It is best seen between May 26th – June 9th.


  • May 6th Eta Aquarids (40 per hour) Favourable.
  • May 13th ALPHA SCORPIIDS (20 per hour) Fairly Favourable.


  • Comet Holmes at Perihelion on May 11th at (2.166AU).
  • Comet C/1999 N4 at Perihelion on May 26th at (5.497AU).

Plus these pages will give daily and weekly reports of this and other Comets progress.


  • May 10th at 01h:00m Disappearance of Delta Cancri
  • May 22nd at 02h:14m Reappearance of Nu1 Sagittarii
  • May 22nd at 03h:07m Reappearance of Nu2 Sagittarii