Mercury and Mars Star in Rare Celestial Sights This May
Reference by: ESA/NASA/SOHO
May 04, 2016   2:06 AM

This month offers skywatchers  that have not been seen from Earth in at least a decade.

On May 9,a transit — that will be visible across all of North America. And then, later in the month, yellow-orange Mars will make its closest approach to Earth since 2005 and will briefly attain a dazzling magnitude of minus 2. (For comparison, the full moon shines at magnitude minus 13, Venus' magnitude is about minus 4 and Jupiter's is about minus 2. The lower the magnitude, the brighter the object.) 

In early May, Jupiter is the only planet visible at dusk. But as the month progresses, Mars rises progressively earlier after sundown, until it's finally evident low in the east-southeast as evening twilight fades. Following behind Mars is zero-magnitude Saturn, not too far from the ruddy first-magnitude star Antares in Scorpius. At dawn's early light, the eastern sky will be empty, with Venus having disappeared into the solar glare.