The month of May is named after Maia, the goddess of growth.

The heavens above are constantly offering us new sights, some of which repeat in predictable patterns but never in exactly the same way. This gives us infinite variations within a knowable framework of motions at different scales.

The nights are already getting shorter as we head toward summer, but they are also getting consistently warmer, calling us to go outside and better appreciate their gifts. As we learn more about our neighboring family of planets and our galaxy, we inevitably learn more about ourselves and our precious and fragile home, Earth. There are many interesting sights visible this month that will help your understanding of this vast and nearly incomprehensible universe.

Our quartet of the four brightest planets has lost a member. The king of the planets, Jupiter, will dip below the western horizon early this month and be in conjunction with the sun on the 13th. That leaves Venus, Mars and Saturn.

Brilliant Venus will go through a remarkable transformation this month. Our sister planet begins May by showing us 26 percent of itself illuminated by the sun, similar to a waning crescent moon. By the end of May, it will be nearly twice that size and only 1 percent illuminated. When it gets that large and thin due to its proximity to Earth, you should be able to detect its thin crescent just with a pair of binoculars, or possibly even without any optical aid. Watch the slender waxing crescent moon glide past Venus during the evenings of the 22nd and 23rd, half an hour after sunset in the western sky.

Usually Venus would then simply pass through inferior conjunction with the sun and disappear for a few days, but this time it will transit directly across the face of the sun. That will start during the evening of June 5 for us in New England. I will tell you more about this rare event next month.

Orange Mars has changed the familiar look of Leo the Lion for the past few months. Notice that it has stopped its retrograde, or westward, motion toward Leo’s brightest star, Regulus. The red planet is now moving in direct, or prograde, motion again away from Regulus and toward Virgo, where Saturn currently abides.

Mars begins the month at zero magnitude, or about 3.5 times brighter than Regulus and 6 degrees east of this star. It will end the month less than 2.5 times brighter than Regulus and nearly 15 degrees east of Regulus. This will be the last month to get a good look at some Martian details like its white North Polar ice cap and some dark markings through a good amateur telescope. After that, Mars will once again sink into relative obscurity for two years until its next opposition in May 2014.

As we continue our celestial journey through the solar system along the ecliptic from west to east, we finally encounter the last bright planet visible in our evening sky. Saturn is just past its own opposition during the middle of last month, so it remains a stunning sight through a telescope for the rest of this spring and throughout the summer. Notice that the ringed jewel is a little brighter than Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. Saturn will remain about 5 degrees east of Spica all month. Saturn spends just over two years in each constellation and moves much slower through our sky than Mars. Its rings are now open to a 13-degree angle, which is close to its maximum of 18 degrees. I recently saw five moons of Saturn through one of our large telescopes at our Starfield Observatory in Kennebunk during an open house.

That same night, I also saw and photographed the supernova in Leo for the first time. It was just discovered in the middle of March, just below Mars in a galaxy called M95, which is 38 million light years away. This was a Type 2 supernova, unlike the Type 1a supernova in the galaxy M101 in the Big Dipper that we saw last year on Sept. 2. A Type 2 supernova was a massive star about eight times the mass of the sun that exploded after it ran out of fuel.

The life of every star is a constant battle between the outward forces of the fusion at their cores and the inward pressure of gravity created by the weight of all the gas that makes up the star. In the end, gravity always wins. A huge star like this one only lives a few million years because it has to burn through all of its fuel much quicker than our sun to maintain this perfect balance.

All of the gold on Earth and all of the heavier elements that make up plants, animals, and humans were forged deep in the heart of a supernova just like this one. If you would like to see a slightly older supernova, look at M1, the Crab Nebula in Taurus, which exploded July 4, 1054. To go further back in time, just look at the Veil Nebula in Cygnus, which exploded about 20,000 years ago and is still a beautiful and mysterious sight through a telescope.

Comet Garrad is still visible in Cancer this month. There will also be another meteor shower, but the moon will be full. The Eta Aquarids will peak before dawn May 5. You will see tiny pieces of Halley’s Comet if you catch any of these meteors.

There will be a partial solar eclipse May 20, but unfortunately the eastern U.S. will not see any of it.

May 1. The moon passes 8 degrees south of Mars tonight.

May 4. The moon passes 6 degrees south of Saturn tonight.

May 5. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks. Full moon is at 11:34 p.m. This is called the planting, milk or flower moon. The moon will be at perigee, or closest to Earth, at 221,802 miles just one minute before it will be full. This will create more extreme tides, and the moon will look bigger than usual when it rises, similar to the supermoon on March 19, 2011, which was the largest in 18 years.

May 12. Last quarter moon is at 5:47 p.m.

May 15. Venus is stationary as it reaches its highest point in the sky.

May 20. New moon is at 7:47 p.m. This one is special because we are in an eclipse season, and this will create an annular solar eclipse along a narrow path that cuts through parts of China and Japan and the southwestern U.S.

May 22. The moon passes near Venus this evening and the next.

May 28. First quarter moon is at 4:16 p.m.

• May 29. The moon passes near Mars.

Bernie Reim of Wells is co-director of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England.