See Saturn in the night sky throughout May 2022

What planets can you see tonight? Find out which Solar System worlds will be visible in the night sky throughout May 2022 with our observing guide.

Saturn Eric Sussenbach, Willemstad, Curaçao, 25 April 2021 Equipment: ZWO ASI 462MC colour camera, Celestron 11” EdgeHD SCT, Celestron AVX mount
Published: April 26, 2022 at 1:55 pm
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Saturn is a morning planet in May 2022 with a low altitude before sunrise.

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Shining at mag. +0.9 at the beginning of May, Saturn brightens marginally by May’s close to reach mag. +0.8.

On the morning of 22 May a 57%-lit waning gibbous Moon sits 5.8˚ south of Saturn.

By the month’s end, Saturn only attains an altitude of 14˚ before the morning dawn twilight begins to reduce its visibility, but it should be possible to follow it through to an altitude of around 16˚.

Saturn only reaches a low altitude as seen from the UK in 2022, but over the next decade it will climb higher. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Saturn only reaches a low altitude as seen from the UK in 2022, but over the next decade it will climb higher. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn doesn’t handle poor seeing well. The view of Saturn's rings is smeared and smudged if the atmosphere is unstable.

A good test for how stable the view is comes in the form of the dark Cassini Division, an apparent gap between the outer A ring and the B ring.

Under good seeing the Cassini Division stands out well, and it’s possible to follow it most of the way around the Earth-facing section of the rings.

This is easier when they are at maximum tilt towards Earth, which they aren’t at present.

Saturn in June by Avani Soares, Canoas, Brazil.
The prominent Cassini Division is easy to see in this image of Saturn by Avani Soares.

In the middle of May, Saturn’s tilt approaches a minimum for the year at around 12.2˚, the north pole being the one tilted towards Earth.

Although views of Saturn from the UK have have suffered from low altitude in recent years the planet will get higher, reaching a peak altitude around 21˚ from central UK under dark skies later this year.

Keep an eye on our regularly updated page on astronomical conjunctions and our monthly Star Diary podcast.

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How to see the planets in May 2022

The phase and relative sizes of the planets in May 2022. Each planet is shown with south at the top, to show its orientation through a telescope. Credit: Pete Lawrence
The phase and relative sizes of the planets in May 2022. Each planet is shown with south at the top, to show its orientation through a telescope. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn

  • Best time to see: 31 May, 03:00 UT
  • Altitude: 16˚ (low)
  • Location: Capricornus
  • Direction: Southeast
  • Features: Rings, subtle banding on the planet, moons
  • Recommended equipment: 75mm, or larger

Mercury

  • Best time to see: 1 May, 30 minutes after sunset
  • Altitude: 12˚
  • Location: Taurus
  • Direction: West-northwest

Following last month’s evening appearance, Mercury remains well placed at the start of May. Shining at mag. +0.7 on the evening of 1 May, it lies 1.9˚ from the Pleiades and sets over 2 hours after the Sun. By the end of May’s first week, Mercury will appear at mag. +1.8, still lingering an impressive 2 hours after sunset before setting.

The planet then dims, reaching mag. +4.0 on 15 May and setting 55 minutes after sunset. It’ll be lost from view earlier than this, about 10 May. Inferior conjunction occurs on 21 May and it returns as a poorly positioned morning object after this date.

Venus

  • Best time to see: 31 May, 30 minutes before sunrise
  • Altitude: 6˚ (low)
  • Location: Pisces
  • Direction: East

Venus shines at mag. –4.0 at May’s start, visible in the morning sky, rising 1 hour before the Sun. At this time, Venus will appear close to the dimmer but still bright Jupiter. Shining at mag. –2.0, Jupiter will lie 22 arcminutes from Venus on 1 May, visible above a flat eastern horizon from around 50 minutes before local sunrise.

The planets separate after 1 May as Venus drifts to the east. On the morning of 27 May, look out for a 10%-lit waning crescent Moon, 1.1˚ southeast of Venus. Again, a flat eastern horizon will be needed to spot this pairing.

Mars

  • Best time to see: 31 May, 03:00 UT
  • Altitude: 10˚ (low)
  • Location: Pisces
  • Direction: East

Mars is currently in the morning sky. On 1 May it shines at mag. +0.9 and rises 90 minutes before the Sun. By the time the end of the month arrives, it will have brightened to mag. +0.7 and rises two hours before the Sun. It has a close encounter with mag. –2.1 Jupiter on 28, 29 and 30 May, the planets appearing 37 arcminutes apart on the 29 May.

A few mornings earlier, on 25 May, look out for a low arrangement of Mars, Jupiter and a 25%-lit waning crescent Moon. By 31 May, through a telescope, Mars will have grown in size to about 6 arcseconds across and shows an 87%-lit gibbous phase.

Jupiter

  • Best time to see: 31 May, 03:00 UT
  • Altitude: 10˚ (low)
  • Location: Pisces
  • Direction: East

Jupiter is a morning planet, lying 22 arcminutes from mag. –4.0 Venus on 1 May. It will be mag. –2.0 on this date and will be an impressive sight from a flat eastern horizon. View from 40 minutes before sunrise.

Venus departs the scene over the following mornings, but Jupiter isn’t left alone, being joined by Mars towards the month’s end. On 25 May, mag. –2.1 Jupiter, mag. +0.7 Mars and a 25%-lit waning crescent Moon may be seen low above the eastern horizon from around 1 hour before sunrise. Jupiter appears closest to Mars on 29 May, the pair separated by 37 arcminutes.

Uranus

Not visible this month

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Neptune

Not visible this month

Authors

Pete Lawrence, astronomer and BBC The Sky at Night presenter.
Pete LawrenceAstronomer and presenter

Pete Lawrence is an experienced astronomer and astrophotographer, and a presenter on BBC's The Sky at Night.

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