Evening sky in May 2019

This month we say farewell to Orion (hunter) as it sets in the early evening and welcome back the prominent winter constellations Scorpius (scorpion) and Sagittarius (archer) situated low on the eastern horizon. Hydra (water snake) passes overhead, surrounded by Corvus (crow), Centaurus (centaur) and Vela (sail).

Just south-west of Vela lies Carina (keel), and the bright star Canopus, also known as ‘Nanga’ or ‘Naka’ (the Horn Star) across Southern Africa. According to Tswana tradition, the reappearance of Naka just before sunrise (at month end), heralds the coming of Winter and the need to start breeding sheep. In Sotho and Venda traditions, the person who first sighted Naka/Nanga in the morning was awarded a cow by their chief.

Mercury initially appears in the morning sky and then in the evening towards month end. Venus remains the brilliant morning star and Jupiter, followed a few hours later by Saturn, is visible for most of the night. Set your watches for 22 May, when Saturn will be occulted by the moon, starting at 22:17 and ending around 23:12 SAST (times for Cape Town, see Sky Guide Africa South for other areas). The moon will be in our evening skies from 6 May to 24 May, with the full moon on the 18 May.