May Night Sky
Sky events for this month & objects for observation can be found here.
Click to enlarge. A larger printable version of this chart can also be found here.
PLANETS FOR MAY
In the chart above for mid-month, the colored arrows show the motion of each planet and the Sun during the month. The Moon is plotted for the evening dates in the Americas when it's waxing (right side Illuminated and the visible surface of the moon increases) or full, and for the morning dates when it's waning (left side illuminated visible surface of the moon decreases). Right Ascension and Declination are the equivalent of longitude and latitude of celestial objects. The Ecliptic is the line followed by the Sun in the sky throughout the year. Note that most of the planets and the Moon are also located close to this plane. The Local Time of Transit indicates when the area of sky passes the meridian line from directly south to north. Sky & Telescope.
PLANET SIZES & ILLUMINATION
Using a telescope one can easily observe dazzling Venus this month and most of the naked-eye planets in the morning sky, while Mercury lies low in the western evening sky. Jupiter's cloud belts and moons, and Saturn and its magnificent ring system - are better placed for observing in the morning sky. Mercury and Venus demonstrate phases similar to the Moon. Usually Mars is difficult to see detail on unless approaching close to the Earth for few months every two years. Uranus and Neptune have relatively small discs, and generally reveal little detail.
Graphics - Sky & Telescope
THE SUN HAS AWAKENED!
Solar activity continues to increase with the Sun's 11 year solar cycle progressing and providing increased numbers of sunspots, flares, and geomagnetic storm activity. Solar Cycle 24 ended a little earlier than predicted in late 2019, and Cycle 25 is now predicted to peak in late 2024, and currently looks to have a sigificantly greater number of sunspots than Cycle 24.
Solar activity near the peak of Solar Cycle 24. Images - Bob Yoesle
TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE
This month's full moon was known by Native American Tribes as the Flower Moon, as this is a month when flowers appear in abundance. The full moon will change in the early hours of May 15-16th with a total lunar eclipse, where the moon's orbit takes it completely into the Earth's umbral shadow. Note that the times shown above are Universal Time. Therefore the eclipse for the Pacific time zone is on the evening of May 15:
Penumbral eclipse begins at 6:32 p.m.
Partial eclipse begins at 7:28 p.m.
Totality (moon fully within Earth’s shadow) begins at 8:29 p.m.
Mid eclipse is at 9:12 p.m.
Totality ends at 9:56 p.m.
Partial eclipse ends at 10:56 p.m.
Penumbral eclipse ends at 11:52 p.m.
During the eclipse the moon is at a near part of its elliptical orbit – "perigee" – closer to Earth and larger than average. It’s therefore sometimes called a "super-moon," and passes completely within the Earth's umbral shadow. Because of this, such eclipses typically have the longest total phases. In this case, the duration of totality lasts almost an hour and a half: 84.9 minutes.
A full moon is up only at night. And a total lunar eclipse can be seen from all of Earth that is experiencing night, while the eclipse is taking place. But some will see the eclipse better than others, depending on location. Some will see it at moonrise or moonset, when the moon is low in the sky. Lunar eclipses are safe and easy to view with the unaided eye. Binoculars and telescopes can enhance the view.
Most of North America all of south America, parts of Africa and Western Europe will see it too. A partial will be visible for folks from the Pacific Northwest and Southern Alaska.
SEASONS - SPRING
The northern hemisphere length of days have become noticeably and rapidly longer, and will peak in June on the summer solstice.
The Earth's orbit around the Sun is not a perfect circle, but rather a slightly elongated ellipse. The distance to the Sun has little effect on the actual seasons in either hemisphere. The difference is relatively small and not enough to overcome the much greater effect of the Earth's axial tilt which results in the seasons.