A woman looks through a telescope at the night sky
A woman looks through a telescope at the night skyAstroStar/Shutterstock.com

Celestial Events To Watch Out For In May

From a meteor shower to a special full moon, check out all the heavenly happenings of May

The total solar eclipse of April 2024 was an awe-inspiring event which continues to linger in conversations, news and memories. Time spent looking up at the stars, planets and galaxies make us feel connected to the universe and one another. Our curiosity, interest and wonder increase when we gaze at the heavens.

Read on to our selection of some spectacular celestial sights next month.

The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

An Eta Aquarids meteor in the night sky
An Eta Aquarids meteor in the night skyJimmy Walsh/Shutterstock.com

The Eta Aquarids is a glorious event where some 60 meteors launch themselves into the Earth’s atmosphere every hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by Halley’s Comet. The annual shower runs from April 19 to May 28 and this year it peaks on May 6-7. The meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius but can appear anywhere in the sky.

The southern hemisphere is the best place to see the Eta Aquarids as the northern hemisphere usually gets only half their number.

Earthshine

Crescent moon with earthshine next to Venus (right)
Crescent moon with earthshine next to Venus (right)Joe Taylor Cinema/Shutterstock.com

Earthshine occurs when sunlight reflects off the Earth's surface and illuminates the unlit portion of the Moon's body. Since the light is reflected twice, once off the Earth and then off the Moon, the light is much dimmer than the lit portion of the Moon. It is also called ashen glow, the old Moon in the new Moon's arms, or the Da Vinci glow, after famed artist, sculptor, engineer and anatomist Leonardo da Vinci, who explained the phenomenon for the first time in recorded history.

Earthshine will be visible from May 3-6 in the eastern sky before sunrise. The same phenomenon can be observed at night from May 11-12.

Mercury At Greatest Western Elongation

The planet Mercury is the closest to the Sun
The planet Mercury is the closest to the SunClaudio Caridi/Shutterstock.com

The planet Mercury is small and can be seen with the naked eye shortly before sunrise or just after sunset. The best time to see it is within a week of its greatest elongation: this is when Mercury appears to be at its farthest distance from Sun as seen from Earth. These periods occur twice every 116 days or so (roughly every four months).

The planet will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky on May 9. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise. Do not try to observe Mercury while any part of the Sun is above the horizon as it can damage your eyes.

Flower Moon

The rising Flower Moon over the Sudetes mountains in the Czech Republic
The rising Flower Moon over the Sudetes mountains in the Czech Republiccastigatio/Shutterstock.com

The full moon of May is known as the Flower Moon by Native Americans to signify the spring flowers that bloom during this month. This moon has also been known as the Milk Moon in Anglo-Saxon literature. Many wildflowers bloom at this time in the northern hemisphere such as anemone, wild garlic, indigo, bluebells, lupine, sundrops and violets.

The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated on May 23.

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