Spring Skies at Night
With nights getting warmer and skies getting clearer, May is a great month to spend some time stargazing. May brings meteor showers, a conjunction of Mars and the moon, and a comet! Mrs. Fernandes has, of course, had her eyes on the skies during our time at home and has captured some magnificent photos to share.
She has a great collection of the full moon from May 7, 2020. This moon is called the “Flower Moon” and is the last in the series of supermoons for the year 2020. Supermoons happen with the moon’s elliptical orbit brings it extra close to earth. They appear 7% larger and 15% brighter than the usual full moon. We observed three other supermoons this year: February (Snow Moon), March (Worm Moon) and April (Pink Moon). Carina C. observed the May supermoon from her home in Seoul, Korea, too!
Two meteor showers were observable this month as well, with the Aquariids around May 5th and the Lyrids around May 8. The Lyrids have a reputation for producing up to hundreds of meteors per hour; however, Mrs. Fernandes did not observe so many during her gazing, but she did get a nice view of the Big Dipper.
On May 15, astronomers can enjoy the conjunction of the moon and Mars. According to the website space.com, “Mars is also visible in the morning sky this week, and it will have its own close encounter with the moon on Thursday night. The Red Planet will be in conjunction with the moon on Thursday (May 14) at 10:02 p.m. EDT (0202 GMT on May 15). It will rise that morning over New York City at 2:18 a.m. local time and will still be in the sky by the time dawn breaks.”
For anybody in the Southern Hemisphere, there is also a new object in the sky this month. The comet SWAN is now visible in the night sky with the naked eye. On May 12-13 it will be at its closest to Earth. Although SWAN was first spotted on April 11th, it takes 25 millions years to orbit the sun along its highly eccentric orbit, so this comet is not really new at all. Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere might have a chance to see the comet, too. During the last week in May, it may be visible “very low in the west-northwest sky after sunset and again very low in the east-northeast sky before sunrise,” writes Joe Rao for Space.com.
We may be at home, but there is still so much to see! The world around us is changing as spring arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, fall descends in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Earth moves along its orbit around the Sun.