What to see in May's night sky including Moon phases, a total lunar eclipse, planet guide, the Eta Aquarid meteor shower and the great Hercules Globular cluster M13.
May Moon Phases
Many cultures refer to May's full moon as the flower moon thanks to the abundant blooming that occurs as spring gets going properly. Other names include the hare moon, the corn planting moon, and the milk moon.
Full Moon and New Moon for May 2022
New MoonSun 1st May
First QuarterMon 9th May
Full MoonMon 16th May
Last QuarterMon 23rd May
Notable Events in May
May's highlight is the total lunar eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth's dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red colour.
The eclipse will be visible throughout all of North America, Greenland, the Atlantic Ocean, and parts of western Europe and western Africa. NASA Map and Eclipse Information.
Venus is always brilliant, shining with a steady, silvery light. Mornings in the eastern sky at dawn from early January through to mid-June.
Mars is visible in the night sky from January to mid-July, then shifts to the morning sky from mid Oct to the end of December.
Jupiter is will be visible in the mornings from January to May, evenings from May to November, and mornings again from mid-December to the end of December.
Saturn is visible in the mornings from late January to early July, then in the evenings from July to December.
May Meteor Showers
The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has been observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. It peaks this year on the night of May 6 and the morning of the May 7. The waxing crescent moon will set early in the evening, leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
May Deep Space Objects
The spring night skies are home to some wonderful globular clusters. M3 in Canes Venatici and M5 in Serpens are good targets for a small telescope and can also be glimpsed with binoculars from sites with dark skies.
As Hercules rises, globular clusters M13 and M92 become visible targets. M13 is one of the brightest and best known globular clusters in the northern sky. The Hercules Globular Cluster was the target of the Arecibo message, a message beamed from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico in 1974, which contained information about the human race, Earth’s location and other data. However, the message will never reach its target. It will arrive at the past position of M13 in about 25,000 years, but the cluster will no longer be there at that point.
Surfboard Galaxy (M108) is a barred spiral galaxy in Ursa Major. Even though it appears almost edge-on, M108 is a popular target among amateur astronomers and astrophotographers because details of its structure can be seen even in amateur telescopes. 3-inch telescopes will only reveal an elongated streak of light with a brighter core, while 8-inch instruments will hint at the galaxy’s dusty regions and bright and faint patches.
The Owl Nebula (M97), is another famous object in Ursa Major. A planetary nebula forms when a dying Sun-like star ran out of hydrogen fuel, collapsed from a red giant to a white dwarf, and ejected its outer envelope. The expelled material is now heated by the radiation of the central white dwarf, producing the nebula's glow.
Also in Ursa Major, Bode's Galaxy (M81) and the Cigar Galaxy (M82) are a nice bright pair to track down.
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