8 Magnificent Celestial Phenomena You Don't Wanna Miss in May - Mark Your Calendar!

The month of May is definitely one that brings you a dozen of celestial beauties. Starting from the beginning of May, you are lucky (unless rain and clouds get in your way) to witness these beautiful natural phenomena in the night sky. Keep scrolling to read through the dates and information to watch them!

Here’s the list of magnificent celestial events you can bless your eyes with, this May!

May 04 – Eta Aquariid meteor shower
May 05 – Venus’ final month in the evening sky
May 06 – Last full supermoon of 2020
May 08 – Morning moon
May 09 – Arc to Arcturus, spike to Spica
May 10 – Moon, 3 morning planets May 11-14
May 16 – Bright star Vega on May evenings
May 27 – Comet Swan

May 4, 5 6, 2020 – Eta Aquariid meteor shower

8 Magnificent Celestial Phenomena You Don't Wanna Miss in May
Eta Aquariid meteors over the Atacama Desert in 2015, via Yuri Beletsky.

You can watch this annual meteor shower from anywhere across the world. However, it will best be seen from the southern hemisphere and the southerly latitudes in the northern hemisphere.

meteors-Eta-Aquarids-5-5-2019-Colin-Legg-Mt-Augustus-
Colin Legg at Mount Augustus National Park in Western Australia caught these meteors on May 5, 2019. This image is a composite of 5 frames. Colin wrote: “Hello from Mt Augustus. Thought I’d post last nights Eta Aquarids collection. In total I captured 8 meteors pointing south and 12 facing east @ 14 mm.”

The best times to watch this would be the dark hour just before dawn. The beauties you are gonna see in these annual showers are debris of a comet. The specific comet of which the debris we’re gonna see, is the popular comet Halley. As Earth passes through Halley every year, pieces left behind by it burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, creating the Eta Aquariid meteors with between 20 to 40 meteors every hour.

May 5, 2020 – Venus’ final month in the evening sky

2020-West-May-24-Venus-Mercury-night-sky

May is Venus’ last full month in the western twilight sky for 2020. After June 3, it will transition over to the eastern sky. Before this happens, one of the brightest celestial bodies, Venus, will be staying longer than usual in the evening sky, ranging from 1 hour and 45 minutes to 3 hours. If you own a telescope, this is a best time to use it to watch Venus, because it is in its fastest orbit now with increased disk size. By May 26, the disk size will be 80% increased.

May 6, 2020 – Last full supermoon of 2020

microsupermoon-sciarpetti-nasa-photo-of-the-day
Stefano Sciarpetti created this composite image of a full supermoon (full moon closest to Earth) with a micro-moon (full moon farthest from Earth). It was the Astronomy Picture of the Day for January 21, 2014.

A full supermoon is when the sun is the closest to Earth. You can watch this on both the 6th and 7th from dusk till dawn. Another point to remember is that while this is the 3rd full supermoon this year, it will also be the final for this year. The first one was on March 9, and the second one on April 7 and 8. So, you don’t wanna miss this! It is on May 7, at 10:45 UTC that the moon will turn precisely full. Go set your reminder now itself!

moon-supermoon-12-3-2017-comparison-Muzamir-Mazlan-Port-Dickson-Malaysia
Here’s a comparison between the December 3, 2017, full moon at perigee (closest to Earth for the month) and the year’s farthest full moon in June 2017 at apogee (farthest from Earth for the month) by Muzamir Mazlan at Telok Kemang Observatory, Port Dickson, Malaysia.

Although the full moon happens at the same instant worldwide, the clock reads differently by time zone. At North American and United States time zones, the moon reaches the crest of its full phase on May 7, at 7:45 a.m. ADT,6:45 a.m. EDT, 5:45 a.m. CDT, 4:45 a.m. MDT, 3:45 a.m. PDT, 2:45 a.m. AKDT and 12:45 a.m. HST.

May 8, 2020 – Morning moon

moon-waning-gibbous-1-4-2018-Jenney-Disimon-Sabah-North-Borneo
Jenney Disimon in Sabah, North Borneo, caught this daytime moon on January 4, 2018.

Since the full supermoon is on the 7th, the moon will be in a waning gibbous phase. That means, just after the full supermoon, the intermediate phase called Waning Gibbous Moon starts. Waning means that it is getting smaller.Gibbous refers to the shape, which is less than the full circle of a Full Moon, but larger than the semicircle shape of the Third Quarter Moon.

The moon will rise in the southeast US after around 2 hours post sunset. Bit by bit, the lightened portion of the moon will keep shrinking until the half lit last quarter moon on May 14.

May 9 – Arc to Arcturus, spike to Spica

2018-may-big-dipper-arcturus-spica

Arcturus is a giant star situated 37 light-years away. The speciality of this star is its deviation from the usual orbit of the rest of the stars in the Milky Way. This star is moving at 100 miles per second that in millions of years people on Earth will not be able to see it. To see it now, what you need to do is find the Big Dipper asterism in the northern sky, draw an imaginary line until you get to the bright orange star, Arcturus.

Once you’re done enjoying the view of this beautiful star, drive a spike from it to watch the beauty of Spica. You might see it as only one star, but in reality, it’s the collection of the light from a multiple star system including two hot stars orbiting close to each other.

May 10 – Moon, 3 morning planets May 11-14

Southeast-to-South-Multiple-Moon-May-11-12-13-14-Saturn-Jupiter-Mars

The waning moon is gonna bring to you three bright morning planets. Jupiter, Saturn and Mars will be the three planets and Jupiter will shine the brightest. Mars will glow in read while Saturn will be golden, in case you were wondering how to tell the two apart.

May 16 – Bright star Vega on May evenings

Vega the Harp Star

Vega is the fifth brightest star in our sky. Northern hemisphere shows Vega easily, even on a moonlit night, because of its brightness. This is sapphire blue and will be such a magnificent scenery.

Vega the Harp Star
The constellation Lyra the Harp, with its brightest star Vega

Its peak will be around three to four hours after midnight. Vega is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra the Harp, and this has given Vega the name “Harp Star”.

vega-lyra-dr-ski-valencia-philippines-5-10-2019
Vega as seen around 3 a.m. from Valencia, Philippines, on May 10, 2019, from Dr Ski. Notice the star near Vega, marked the Greek letter Epsilon. This star is Epsilon Lyrae, a famous double-double star

May 27 – Comet Swan

The comet makes its closest pass by Earth on May 13 and comes nearest to the sun on May 27. While at the beginning you’ll need sharp vision and dark sky to clearly watch this comet, the comet is assumed to increase in brightness in the coming days so that you’ll be able to watch it with naked eyes.

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