What's Up in the Night Sky?

May 2022 - Vol. 26, No. 5

Astra's Star Gate

This Month's Night Sky - NOTE: The next paragraph describes the sky as it appears at 10 pm EST (11 pm EDT) near mid- month. The sky also looks this way at 11 pm EST (midnight EDT) during the beginning of the month and at 9 pm EST (10 pm EDT) by month's end.

As May brings the lengthening days, the hours of nightly observation decrease as well. It is always with a bit of sadness that we say good-bye to the Winter and Spring constellations, Gemini, Leo, and Virgo. The early evening presence of Arcturus, the second brightest star in the northern sky, reminds us that the bright star clouds of the Milky Way will soon be brightening up those dark evenings when the Moon is small enough to allow us to truly enjoy those galactic treasures. As the evening turns to morning, the bright stars of the summer triangle follow until just before sunrise, the Milky Way is at the zenith, high overhead. Long twilight hours come to the northern hemisphere.

MERCURY fades into the evening twilight early in the month reaching inferior conjunction on the 2nd. VENUS in the morning sky moves away from Jupiter and the other outer planets. MARS moves into Pisces this month shining at +0.7 mag by month's end. JUPITER in Pisces rises earlier each day. SATURN in the morning sky rises around 12:30am as the month ends. URANUS in conjunction with the Sun on the 5th. NEPTUNE moves into Pisces this month, rising in the morning sky. A total lunar eclipse on the 16th will be visible in North America, with the full eclipse viewable from the eastern USA.

Review how to determine Angular Measurement.

Calendar of Events

NOTE: For those observers not in the ET zone, convert the calendar times to your zone's time by subtracting one hour for CT, two for MT and three for PT. Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time when necessary by subtracting one hour from your planisphere's time. Dawn and dusk times must also be corrected. See your local newspaper, TV news, or cable TV's Weather Channel for sunrise and sunset times or check with the U.S. Naval observatory. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.

02 Mercury 1.8 deg. N. of Moon.
04 Ceres 0.1 deg. N. of Moon, occultation from NE S. America, Cape Verde Islands, Madiera, N.Africa, southernmost Europe, parts of Middle East, and W and S. India.
05 Moon at apogee.
Uranus in conjunction with the Sun.
06 Eta aquarid meteor peak. The shower produces up to 60 meteors at its peak. Dust particles for this meteor shower are generated by Halley's comet as it approaches the Sun on its 76-year orbit. The Moon will set after midnight and be 32% illumnated, unlikely to inhibit meteor watching.
10 Mercury stationary.
15 Venus at aphelion.
16 Total lunar eclipse, visible from all of South America and the eastern half of North America. Portions of the eclipse will be visible from parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Antarctica. At this time the Moon will be located in Libra and be close to perigee so the disk will be larger than average.
17 Moon at perigee.
Mercury at descending node.
Mars 6 deg. S. of Neptune.
21 Mercury at inferior conjunction.
22 Saturn 4 deg. N. of Moon.
24 Mars 3 deg. N. of Moon.
25 Jupiter 3 deg. N. of Moon.
26 Mars at greatest heliocentric lat. S.
27 Mercury at aphelion.
Venus 0.2 deg. N. of Moon, occultation from Madagascar, most of SE Asia, SE China, and Micronesia.
28 Uranus 0.3 deg. N of Moon, occultation from Easter Island, S. America, Cape Verde Islands, and W. Africa.
29 Mars 0.6 deg. S. of Jupiter.

Lunar Almanac for May 2022

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s) Best viewed before local midnight
new moon New
Deep Space Objects
first quarter moon 1st. Qtr
Planets & Moon
full moon Full
last quarter moon Last Qtr
Deep Space & Planets

Topic of the month: Total Lunar Eclipse May 16, 2022

Total lunar eclipse on January 21, 2019 taken by Giuseppe Donatiello
Total lunar eclipse on January 21, 2019.
taken by Giuseppe Donatiello from Oria, Italy. ©CC1.0

This month's total lunar eclipse will occur on May 16, 2022. Because it begins at 1:31 UT, the initial stages of the eclipse occur before midnight on May 15 for the eastern portion of North America. It will be hyped as a "supermoon" eclipse because the Moon will be 1.5 days away from perigee (the closest distance to the Earth in its orbit.) at the time of greatest eclipse. The Moon is larger during perigee, but it will be hard to tell visually because there is no way to compare the Moon at perigee to the Moon at apogee on any given day.

Because the moon is passing through the central region of Earth's shadow, the duration of totality will be 85.5 minutes. At that time, the Moon will display a distinct coppery orange. This eclipse is well situated for eastern North America. For the western side of the continent, the moon will be totally eclipsed at Moonrise.

The Moon will be located in the constellation of Libra during the eclipse. At mid-totality (about midnight for eastern US) the Milky Way star clouds may be visible from a dark site. This year is especially good for lunar eclipses as there will be another total lunar eclipse on November 8, 2022 that will also be visible for the citizens of North America. This eclipse will occur in the early morning hours and the chance of cloud cover is greater at that time of the year. If the sky is clear for you on May 15/16, a total eclipse is an exciting astronomical event to watch and share with family members and friends.

For detailed information on the May 16 eclipse and others, check out Eclipsewise with Fred Espenak.

--See You Under the Stars!
Astra for Astra's Almanac

This installment of "What's Up?" is ©2022 by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. View Ron Leeseburg's Farewell Issue for information on where to find information such as is presented in this almanac.