May Night skies over Tanzania

May Night Skies over Tanzania


  • PLANETS - Venus and Jupiter extremely bright in the west, Venus in half phase, Saturn-Jupiter-Venus line shows the Ecliptics, Saturn at opposition on May 24
  • MOON - Crescent Moon close to VENUS, May 21, Half Moon close to JUPITER, May 23, 24, Full Moon close to SATURN, Jun 1, Full Moon, May 4, New Moon, May 18, Full Moon, June 2.
  • CONSTELLATIONS - We see the last of the Orion constellation this month, North and South direction pointers are well up in the sky, Prominent zodiac constellations – Scorpio, Virgo, Leo, Gemini/



Night skies sparkle when the dust has been washed away by rain. So we hope that once the rains lift you will have a sparkling view of the planets, stars and constellations.

Among planets, VENUS and JUPITER dominate the skies shining extremely brightly in the western skies, with Venus midway to the west horizon and Jupiter higher up in the sky. When viewed through a telescope Venus shows a half shape, while Jupiter will show its four Galilean moons as well as the parallel equatorial cloud belts.

SATURN is at opposition on May 24, so the sharply shining Saturn will be seen rising in the east just as the sun sets in the west. PLANET OPPOSITION occurs when the full face of the planet is lit by sunlight with the planet on one side (east side) of Earth while the Sun is on the opposite side (west). So a brightly shining planet rises from the east at sunset.

Saturn will remain in the evening night sky for the next six months moving gradually westwards.  Saturn is well tilted at the moment to give us the most breathtaking sight when viewed through a telescope.

If you connect a line from Saturn in the east to Jupiter to Venus in the east you will have marked the special line called the ECLIPTIC, where all planets, Moon and Sun will be found in the sky.  You cannot find any these objects away from this line for example to the north or to the south.  The zodiac constellations are also located along this line – from east, Scorpio, Virgo, Leo, Gemini and Taurus in the west.

The Moon provides a good reference for locating objects in the night sky since it is easy to locate.  CRESCENT MOON is close to VENUS on May 21, seen 40 degrees above the western horizon at sunset.  The pair will slowly drop lower through the night and set after a few hours.

HALF MOON is close to JUPITER on May 23 and 24 and will be seen close to zenith overhead and the two will be about 10 degrees apart.  They will shift slowly westwards and set before midnight. FULL MOON is close to SATURN on Jun 1, with the pair rising above the eastern horizon at sunset. They are 2 degrees apart and shift westwards throughout the night. FULL MOON is on May 4 while NEW MOON is on May 18 and again, FULL MOON is on Jun 2

We will see the last of the most recognizable Orion constellation this month.  Soon after sunset you will see it as a horizontal rectangle, low in the west, and is close to Taurus constellation, with its twinkling Pleiades cluster also called the ‘seven little sisters’.  However, Gemini, Leo and Cannis Major with its brightest star in the sky, Sirius, are easy to recognize in the western skies.  Towards the east, Virgo and Boots can be recognized by their brightest stars Spica and Arcturus respectively while another constellation that is easy to recognize, Scorpio rises in the east.  The south and north directions are also well marked by the Southern Cross and the Big Dipper whose stars are used to point out directions.