Meteors and morning planets in May

After the spectacular solar eclipse last month, our attention shifts in May to one of the year’s better meteor showers, the Eta Aquariids. 

This shower peaks on May 5 and will not be hindered by a bright moon, as the new moon occurs on May 7.

The Eta Aquariids are caused by debris from Halley’s Comet through which Earth passes in its orbit. The main region of the sky from which the meteors appear to come is called the radiant, and this radiant is in the eastern sky one to two hours before sunrise.

Fifty meteors per hour can usually be expected, but this year as many as 75 per hour may be seen.

As usual with meteor showers, it is worth looking for meteors one to two days before and after predicted peak (May 5), which would be from May 3 to May 7. This expands the chances of spotting meteors.

With Jupiter setting just one hour after sunset this month, planet watching shifts to the eastern morning sky. First one up will be Saturn, rising before 4 a.m. on May 1.

Climbing higher all month, Saturn will be twice as high in the sky by May 31.

The crescent moon will be near Saturn (left and below) on May 1, and it will be back near Saturn again on the 31st.

On May 5, Mars will be seen low above the eastern horizon, left of Saturn, but above the crescent moon. Binoculars might allow us to spot distant gas giant planet Neptune above Mars and along a line of sight moving up toward Saturn.

Mars will appear to brighten throughout May.

On May 6, an hour before sunrise, Mercury, Mars, Neptune and Saturn will line up along a diagonal line from the horizon up toward Saturn.

Mercury will not appear to gain much altitude but it will brighten until May 15, when its orbit begins to appear to move it back down toward the horizon.

In May the warrior constellation Bootes rides high in the eastern evening sky approaching the zenith, or highest point, of the sky. First magnitude orange star Arcturus, third brightest of all, lies in the middle of Bootes.

Also look over to the northeastern horizon for Vega in the constellation Lyra the harp, beginning to show itself.

The May full moon is May 23.

Any related posts will be listed here:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content