Astrophotography in May 2024: what to shoot in the night sky this coming month (2024)

By Jamie Carter


From ‘shooting stars’ from Halley’s Comet to an occultation of a bright star by the moon, here’s everything you need to know about what’s happening in the heavens this month.

Astrophotography in May 2024: what to shoot in the night sky this coming month (1)

April 2024 is a classic shoulder season for astrophotography. Last month’s astrophotography frenzy, the total solar eclipse, is history, the bright stars of winter are sinking into the western horizon at sunset, and the nights are getting noticeably shorter at northern latitudes.

However, plenty is happening in the night sky if you know exactly when and where to look. This month’s highlights include the first moon-free meteor shower for four months as the Eta Aquariids peak alongside some beautiful lunar views. Among them will be the rise of a full ‘Flower Moon’ and – from some parts of the U.S. – the chance to see it move across and block one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

1-10 May: dark sky window

Ten days of moonless night skies begin tonight. That makes now the best time to get outside with your camera or telescope. Why so specific? With the moon reaching its last quarter phase tonight, it begins to rise after midnight. It will rise in the east about 50 minutes later each day and shrink as it moves into the sun’s glare. The new moon on 7 May sees it completely absent from the night sky, reappearing as a slim crescent that sinks soon after sunset. It won’t be until 10 May that the crescent waxes towards the half-lit first quarter phase and begins to affect the quality of the night sky.

Read: Astrophotography: How-to guides, tips and videos

3-5 May: The crescent moon meets three planets

If you’re fine with rising early, a celestial treat will be visible in the southeastern skies an hour before dawn for three mornings in a row. On May 3, a 28%-illuminated waning crescent moon will shine to the right of Saturn and Mars. On May 4, it will be 18%-illuminated and between Saturn and Mars. On May 5, it will be a mere 10%-illuminated and closer to the horizon between Mars and dim Mercury, which will rise just before sunrise.

Read: 10 must-shoot events for astrophotographers in 2024

4-5 May: Eta Aquariids meteor shower

Astrophotography in May 2024: what to shoot in the night sky this coming month (3)

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower, which is peaking tonight, results from dust and debris left in the solar system by the famous comet 1P Halley. The comet last visited the solar system in 1986 and will return in 2061. The Eta Aquariid meteor shower runs from 15 April through 27 May, producing up to 30 “shooting stars” per hour on the peak tonight. It’s one of only two meteor showers in 2024 that peak in moonless night skies, the other being August’s Perseids.

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Read: How to photograph a meteor shower

8 and 9 May: A razor-thin crescent moon

Imaging the slimmest possible crescent moon is a common boast among astrophotographers, but you’ll need a telephoto lens (over 300mm) and a keen eye to do it. On 8 May, the moon will be visible just 1% illuminated above the west-northwest horizon (and just above Jupiter) after sunset. The following evening, 9 May, it will be a mere 4% illuminated and higher in the sky, sinking 50 minutes later. The latter will be easier to image, but the former will be a bigger achievement.

10 and 11 May: The crescent moon and ‘Earthshine’

When the crescent moon is visible in dark skies, it displays ‘Earthshine,’ sunlight reflected by the Earth’s oceans and icecaps back onto the moon, gently illuminating its unlit areas.

May 23: The full ‘Flower Moon’ and Antares

Astrophotography in May 2024: what to shoot in the night sky this coming month (4)

The rise of May’s full moon, the ‘Flower Moon,’ will require a 70-300mm lens, a tripod, and a remote shutter release. The best way to get a good shot is to experiment with short exposures and include some surrounding landscape. The moon itself will appear orangey-yellow as it appears because it’s behind the densest part of Earth’s atmosphere, which long-wavelength reddish light can travel through more easily.

See it at moonrise where you are for the best views of it as it appears in the east. As a bonus, it will rise with Antares just to the lower left. Antares is a red supergiant star and the brightest star in the summer constellation of Scorpius. Those in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina will be able to see Antares disappear behind the moon. Lunar occultations can only ever be seen from a tiny portion of the Earth.

Read: How to photograph the full moon

31 May: The crescent moon and Saturn

For the second time this month, the moon—which takes 27 days to return to the same part of the sky—will appear very close to Saturn, again in the pre-dawn sky. This time, it will be approaching its first quarter phase, so it will be about 50% illuminated. From Southern Africa, the moon will occult Saturn.

Read more:

Astrophotography: How-to guides, tips and videos

Astrophotography tools: the best camera, lenses and gear

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Jamie Carter

Astrophotography expert

Jamie has been writing about all aspects of technology for over 14 years, producing content for sites like TechRadar, T3, Forbes, Mashable, MSN, South China Morning Post, and BBC Wildlife, BBC Focus and BBC Sky At Night magazines.

As the editor for, he has a wealth of enthusiasm and expertise for all things astrophotography, from capturing the Perseid Meteor Shower, lunar eclipses and ring of fire eclipses, photographing the moon and blood moon and more.

He also brings a great deal of knowledge on action cameras, 360 cameras, AI cameras, camera backpacks, telescopes, gimbals, tripods and all manner of photography equipment.

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Astrophotography in May 2024: what to shoot in the night sky this coming month (2024)


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