What’s Happening in May? Star cluster Coma, the planets of night and day, a lunar eclipse, and a lunar eclipse.
Two excellent opportunities to see planets occur at the beginning and end of May. Mercury will be roughly 10 degrees off the horizon and accompanied by a thin crescent moon on May 2nd, 45 minutes after sunset.
Aldebaran, a bright red giant star to the south of the Moon, has about the same brightness as Mercury. By the way, this is the last opportunity until August to see a naked-eye planet.)
Jupiter and Mars will come closer and closer to each other in the predawn sky in the last week of May. On the 28th and 30th, they’ll be separated by less than the breadth of a full moon in near conjunction that you can watch. With binoculars, you’ll be able to see Jupiter’s largest moons as well.
In mid-May, skywatchers in the Western Hemisphere can expect a total lunar eclipse. There is a good chance that you will be able to see this across the Americas, Europe, and Africa at the same time.
Approximately 10:30 p.m. EDT on May 15th marks the beginning of the eclipse’s viewable phase; totality begins an hour later and lasts roughly an hour and a half. If you live in the eastern United States, you will witness the eclipse begin with the Moon high in the sky.
The eclipse begins approximately an hour and a half after nightfall in the Central United States when the Moon is low in the sky. If you’re on the West Coast of the United States, you’ll want to find a clear view toward the southeast if you want to see the Moon rise during totality.
It is safe to see a lunar eclipse with your eyes, binoculars, or a telescope now that the eclipse is through (unlike solar eclipses).
During totality, the Moon appears reddish. Even though the Moon is completely encased in Earth’s shadow, red wavelengths of sunlight fall onto the Moon’s surface. To put it another way, total lunar eclipses show us a projection of every sunrise and sunset that is currently taking place around the globe.
To learn more about this eclipse and other celestial events, visit NASA’s page on eclipses Coma star cluster will be visible in binoculars in May, at long last. There are 40 or 50 stars in this open cluster, which spans a sky area roughly three finger-widths broad. This image shows how the cluster’s brightest stars create a Y shape.
After the Hyades cluster in Taurus, Coma is the second-closest open cluster to our planet, at around 300 light-years away.
To locate the Coma star nebula, turn to the constellation Leo. Using the two “pointer stars” on the end of the Big Dipper, which always points to Leo, can be the most convenient method to get started.
The Coma star cluster is located 15 degrees east of the lion’s hindquarters star triangle once you’ve located Leo. Even in light-polluted metropolitan skies, it’s simple to spot using binoculars — as long as the sky is clear.
So here’s hoping for bright skies in May so you may see the Coma star cluster and any other beauties of the night sky.
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