The Sky In May 2024 – By Dee Sharples

Poster’s Note: The text for this month’s installment from Dee Sharples, “The Sky In May 2024,” is provided below. Those wishing to listen to the article can click on the audio link below.

In May, our moon will take on the roles of both signpost and participant in some beautiful sights in the dawn sky. Set your alarm early this month and head outside for a memorable experience in the comfort of fresh spring mornings.  Bring out a pair of binoculars if you have them to enhance your enjoyment.

Before the sun rises on the morning of May 3rd, look east-southeast for the waning crescent moon and the planets Mercury, Saturn, and Mars in a line stretching from the horizon to the upper right for just over 20°. Mercury is the brightest and closest to the horizon at Magnitude 0.8. You’ll need an unobstructed view as well as a pair of binoculars to find this illusive planet situated only 3° above the horizon a half hour before sunrise.

The next morning on the 4th, Saturn with a yellowish tinge, lies above and to the right of the crescent moon. Mars, looking like an orangish star, joins them lower and to the left.

May 5th finds the moon situated halfway between Mars and Mercury which is hugging the horizon.

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower will peak in May and will appear to originate from the constellation Aquarius. This shower has a large range for its maximum so it will peak on the mornings of both May 5th and 6th. The moon will be only a thin crescent and will not diminish the fainter meteors. These meteors are created by the debris left behind by Halley’s comet as it leaves our solar system on its 76-year journey to the outer solar system and back again to revisit out sun.

The radiant rises just before 3:00 a.m. boasting 15-20 meteors per hour before twilight starts to creep above the horizon. As the radiant climbs higher, face toward the southwest for the best views.

On May 23 (9:17 p.m.) and May 24 (10:25 p.m.), the moon will eclipse Antares, a red supergiant star and the brightest in the constellation Scorpius. Although the star will already be blocked by the moon when it rises, you’ll be able to see it reappear shortly after on the trailing limb of the moon.

All to be enjoyed in the balmy mornings and evenings of spring.

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