What's in the night sky in the week of 8 to 14 May, 2023 in our weekly stargazing guide. This week's highlights include Venus and Mars passing through Gemini and the minor meteor shower the Eta Lyrids.


Chris Bramley Hello and welcome to Star Diary, the podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. You can subscribe to the print edition of the magazine by visiting www.skyatnightmagazine.com or digital edition by visiting on iTunes or Google Play.

Ezzy Greetings, listeners, and welcome to Starr Diary, a weekly guide to the best things to see in the northern hemisphere's night sky. As we are based here in the UK, all times are in BST. In this episode, we'll be covering the coming week from 8 to 14 May. I'm Ezzy Pearson, the magazine's features editor, and I'm glad to have Paul Money, our reviews editor joining me on the show today. Hello, Paul.

Paul Hello there. Got another exciting week again.

Ezzy Yes. So what do we have to look forward to in the night sky this week?

Paul Well, with the problem of sounding a bit repetitive, as we start these each week, we're in the evening sky with Venus. Yes, it still dominates and it will do for a while now, but it is bright. I mean, -4.3. I mean, you know, it is incredibly bright. The moon now is past fall. So you will have a period whereby if you wait long enough, you might get to see, try it, get a dark site see if you can cast a shadow using Venus light and try photograph with modern smartphones. You should actually be able to photograph it because some of them that can take long exposures and they use image stabilisation. I can take a handheld picture of the constellations now. Handheld! I'll be interested if anybody does that, and I'm sure they can send the pictures in – can't they? – to the magazine, we'd be quite excited to see something like that, especially with a smartphone. I have to say yes.

Ezzy You can always send in pictures. You can find out details of how to do that over on our website www.skyatnightmagazine.com. We also have a article on there. When Pete Lawrence managed to photograph a shadow taken by Venus. I'll put a link to that down in the show notes as well if anybody fancies a look.

Paul So 8 and 9 May, Well, we've got Venus as we've already mentioned, But on 8th Mars forms a shallow triangle with Castor and Pollux. But it's also close to Kappa Geminorum now. And it's more of a curve, really, with those three stars on the planet sort of thing. And as a Mars, well, it's not the brightest, but, you know, it's on a par now with Castor and Pollux. Meanwhile, Venus now joined the in Gemini. As ironic as Venus comes into Gemini a bit later on in the month, Mars will leave Gemini. But there is nothing that Venus said or anything like that. But Venus on the night lies above the open cluster Messier 35. This got an informal nickname of the Shoe Buckle cluster. I personally can't see it. I think I'll see a shape of a shuttle. But this is a nice chance to see photography. That would be a great picture to get with the actual brilliant Venus. And if you're into Deep Sky, there is actually another cluster right next to M35, NGC 2158, fainter and smaller, but they make a nice pair and I think get those in the frame of view with Venus as well will be quite something. Venus, of course, will be absolutely brilliant in the picture. So there are that's 8th and 9th. Now staying with the 8th to the 10th, we actually have in the morning sky. Yes. You have to get up for this. This is 4:00 in the morning. It's a real time folks. Those have to get up early in the morning will really know what I mean. Bull, if you've got time for o'clock in the morning, turn a telescope towards Saturn, because in actual fact, Saturn is close to the star 58 Aquarii. Now. Saturn is actually quite bright magnitude 0.9. So that's +0.9. So pretty reasonably bright. The star is +6.3 magnitude. It's a pretty faint. She can't confuse them. And not only that, if you're using a telescope the star won't have rings around it. If the stars got rings around it, you need to have the telescope looked at.

Ezzy Yes, that would be a definite sign. You've got some kind of aberration going on there if your stars have rings.

Paul Yeah, definitely a problem there... but it is gorgeous to see it and it moves slowly past the stars closest around about what light should take until 7th and 8th. So I think 8th I think will make a nice particular view. And of course you've not just got the rings. If you look carefully, you might see some of the brighter moons. You've got Titan, Iapatus some of the moons like that to have a look at as well. They will change position. So if you're able to have clear mornings, say the 8th, 9th and 10th, you can see the moons of Saturn changing position as well. And again, we mentioned the motions in the last week of the of the sky and that he always seemed static. When you look at the moons of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, you can actually see them changing night after night. In fact, if used, there are times when sometimes if they're close to each other, you've got two moons close to each other, then you can see the motion. That night, during that evening, over the course, a viewer, I don't know, but I actually get quite excited by that.

Ezzy Yeah, it's some of the moons of Jupiter. They just whip round, you know, It takes, you know, like a week or so. I think there's one, it's three and a half days where it takes to go around or something like that, which is just, it's very quick.

Paul Yeah. I mean, Io and Europa when they get close to each other. I mean their relative motion is of course if one's moving one way and one's moving in the other, because they're in different parts of the orbit, but just from our viewpoint, look as if they're in the same part of the sky. We can be quite dramatic. I've seen some great animations where people have imaged them. And I'm sure Pete must have imaged them as well. I've done it, but I've not created an image, you know, an animation from them sort of thing because you know, you need to take it over a period of a few hours and you can guarantee a house or a tree or get in the way or all clouds as usual or something.

Ezzy And again, we do have guides on how to make an animation of, well, it's actually Jupiter, but it should work just as well for Saturn. Over on our website again, I will put a link down below.

Paul Exactly. Now, we mentioned the Eta Aquariids last week. They were defeated by the moon. Now there's a really faint shower. Now I have to say it... I only bring it up because I thought to myself, well, these poor [meteor] showers, these minor showers, they don't get much attention. You know, they're we always go for the big, bright brashy ones that have lots and lots of meteors. But they Eta Lyrid now. Yes, we have the April Lyrids, so I'll say. And they are they can be quite good. But this is the Eta Lyrids and it sort of lies between I always think of the wings of Cygnus sort of thing. And so of Vega as well, the radiant lies between the two. So you can easily find it. But obviously when meet you don't look straight at the radiant. So then you get very short meteor streaks you need to look around about so about 60 to 90 degrees away from the radio to get the best view, but they have a peak of just three. But I thought it's worth mentioning because the thing is, although the Moon's in the sky, we're in the morning sky now. If you start observing, the moon rises at about 1AM. So this is on May 9th. So a lot of this meteor shower is not as well known. If you looking out something and you get something streak away from actual Lyra, then there's a chance you never know you might have caught. Well, even if you get one, if you get that one out of the three in though we know generally and you might be, you know, it theoretically would be even less than that because, you know, three is the perfect conditions if you're looking directly at the zenith as such. But you know, it's worth it. And the other thing about we mentioned about the full moon, the foot when the full moon. So it really does dominate. But once it gets to the stage, it's a gibbous phase a few days later, it's very low. This time of year is very low. So it's actually in Sagittarius, so it doesn't create so much of a hassle, it doesn't ruin the sky as much. So, you know, that's the key. You may as well have a look at it. The other reason I mention it is that there's particularly Eta Aquarids our associated with a comet IRAS-Araki-Alcock 1983 and that was my first comet I observed as he first one to see. And it was a bright one as well. We could see naked-eye race across the sky in about six days, and for most of that, shock, it was clear. But yes, it brings back memories. So it's one of those things I really want to have a look at this particular shower and on the off chance that I might see one speck and it will be particles shed by that comets. That would be my link to that comet back then. Bit of nostalgia for you.

Ezzy Yes. For those of you who don't know, meteor showers happen because we passed through basically the trail of a comet. So it leaves behind this this dust and debris that hits Earth's atmosphere, going in incredible speeds, you know, tens of thousands of kilometres per hour, which causes the air around them to glow white hot. And that's what we see as a streak of a meteor. So, yes, and occasionally a comet comes through the solar system and we get a new meteor shower or refreshes an old one.

Paul Yeah. And this is one of the new ones. Yeah. Does show it changes though. Because prior to the IRAS-Araki-Alcock coming in, they, you know, we didn't have this meteor shower, so. Yeah. So it's always nice to have something fresh, a new meteor shower on the go and they can occur. I mean, we never know, do we, when we're going to get that next bright comet that it crosses the Earth's orbit and we then encounter the swarm of particles. So, you know, so fingers crossed, you know, we might get some more in the near future. And of course, this probably also suggests some meteor showers will die off. There may be meteor showers thousands of years ago that were absolutely spectacular, but now there's virtually nothing left of them.

Ezzy Yeah, And so it's always worth if you are out stargazing anyway, on the around 9th, just make sure you know where Lyra is in the sky. So if you do see a meteor, you can track it back and work out whether it was an [Eta] Lyrid or it was just a random meteor. If you happen to catch something whilst you're out and about.

Paul So we're going to end this week. Gosh, this is a quicker week for once. I think we. And when? This week. This is actually May 12th to 14th, 13th and 14th in particular, something the moon is actually passing Saturn. Now, the moon is at last quarter on the 12th. So if you like last quarter moons, you are. But you do have to get up in the morning. We're talking 4am again, as if of the twilight is beginning, though. The nights are getting lighter, of course, but on 13th and 14th, the moon is still on 13th to the lower right of Saturn on 14th. These to the lower left and of course, lower to the horizon as well. So that finishes our week by getting us to look into the morning sky. But to catch Saturn as well as they are, I would mention that Neptune technically is in the sky as well. But the twilight swamps it. I don't think you will really see Neptune. So we need to give that a few more weeks. And the problem with Neptune is that because it's faint, we're also going to find that as the sky gets lighter, it sort of overcompensate and swamps out poor Neptune for a while. It's why don't get too excited. Although I know it's in the sky, I don't get too excited yet because I know the sky brightness overwhelms it, which I think is a shame. But we got Saturn. We'll always have Saturn when we Ezzy.

Ezzy We'll always have that. So to summarise, we begin the week on 8th to 9th of May when Venus is just coming into the constellation of Gemini. As Mars is starting to move out of it and Venus on 9th will also be near to M35 this new buckle cluster. Then on 8th to 10th, Saturn will be in the morning sky. It's a good opportunity to take a look at Saturn, perhaps even try tracking some of its moons. Then on the ninth, we have the Eta Lyrid meteor shower, a very minor shower. You might only expect to see one or so meteors an hour. But if you're out and about anyway, take a look at that one. Then on 12th to14th, we have the moon passing Saturn in the morning sky. So thank you very much, Paul, for taking the time to take us through all of those.

Paul My pleasure.

Ezzy Pearson If you want to keep up to date with all of the latest stargazing highlights, do be sure to subscribe to the Star Diary podcast and we hope to see you all here next week. If you want to find out even more spectacular sites that will be gracing the night sky throughout the month, be sure to pick up a copy of BBC Sky at Night magazine. Well, we have a 16 page pull out Sky Guide with a full overview of everything worth looking out for. Whether you like to look at the moon, the planets, or the deep sky, whether you use binoculars, telescopes or neither, our sky guide has got you covered with a detailed star charts to help you track your way across the night sky. From all of us here at BBC Sky and Night Magazine. Goodbye.


Chris Bramley Thank you for listening to this episode of Star Diary, the podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night magazine. For more of our podcasts, visit our website at www.skyatnightmagazine.com or head to aCast, iTunes or Spotify.


Elizabeth Pearson
Ezzy PearsonScience journalist

Ezzy Pearson is the Features Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.