M A Y S K Y W A T C H
by Maya del Mar
We are deluged with celestial events this month. Sun and Moon both get eclipsed, tiny Mercury boldly flies across Suns face, Moon occults Venus, and we are graced with the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower, one of the years best.
Then there is Mars growing bigger and brighter as it moves towards its most spectacular appearance in 50,000 years in August, and tiny Vesta still visible through binoculars, even in urban areas.
At twilight, look for the bright body high in the west-southwest sky. This is Jupiter, visible all month until past midnight. Saturn, lower towards the west, sets a couple of hours after sunset. This is the last month to view Saturn this year, because it will pass behind the sun in June, and be lost in the suns glare.
After midnight, about the time Jupiter sets in the west, orange-red Mars rises in the east. Mars, now a morning star, brightens by 70% this month!
The Eta Aquarids are the debris from Halleys Comet. This shower peaks early on the morning of May 5, although it sends many meteors into visibility during a few days before and after. Look for them close to the east-southeast horizon, in the area of Mars, about 4 a.m. on the morning of May 5. In the southern hemisphere, the meteor radiant is high in the sky, with excellent visibility and many meteors.
Venus hangs low in the east shortly before sunrise. On May 28, Mercury, the thin crescent old moon, and Venus are all close together low in the east. This promises to be a lovely sight.
Vesta actually moves this month. Find Jupiter, then move eastward along the ecliptic to Leos bright yellow star, Regulus, then eastward about the same distance to Vesta. East of Vesta is Virgos blue star, Spica. Vesta is about midway between Regulus and Spica, but not bright as they are. The clue is that it moves.
Mercury transits sun on May 7, the total lunar eclipse occurs on May 15, Moon occults Venus on May 29, and the annular Solar Eclipse occurs on May 31. Look at each of those days in the Daily Success Guide for sky descriptions.
Get yourself out on the night of May 15 to view the total lunar eclipse. It will be awesome. The complimentary eclipse in Taurus on November 8 is also total, and also easily viewed over North America. Two easily viewed total lunar eclipses in the same year is a rare happening. Lets hope the clouds part that night!