The month of May will be very busy, astronomically speaking. Two of the most anticipated events of the year take place this month: a lunar eclipse, fully visible from Brazil, and the intense Eta Aquárids meteor shower, with remnants of Halley’s comet.
Tilt has prepared some tips for observation. An astronomy website or app (such as Skywalk, Starchart, Sky Saari, or Stellarium) is also very useful for finding object positions and visibility times in your area.
5-6/5: Peak of the Eta Aquarids meteor shower
One of the most beautiful and iconic meteor showers peaks on the night of the 5th to the 6th of May. It is known for its speed and density, leaving very bright trails in the night sky; some of them may even appear to explode.
Especially from 2am in the morning, look towards the eastern horizon (where the Sun rises) and you can see up to 50 “shooting stars” per hour. The best time for observation is an hour before dawn, when the rain radiant – the constellation Aquarius (hence the name) will be highest in the sky. Also note in the coming days; the Eta Aquáridas continues until the end of the month, with less and less activity.
What makes this shower more special is the point where the meteors converge, clearly visible in the Southern Hemisphere, and, above all, its composition. What generates the luminous phenomena are pieces of the tail of the famous Halley comet, which last visited us 35 years ago, in 1986.
05-15-16: Total Lunar Eclipse – Blood Moon
The first total lunar eclipse of two that will take place in 2022. In this one, Brazil will be more than privileged, right in the center of the observation zone. To our delight, it will be fully visible throughout South America on the night of the 15th to the 16th of May.
The “total” phase takes place between 12:30 am (Brasilia time) and 1:50 am, with the Moon gaining a very reddish color – hence the name “Blood Moon”. The peak is reached around 1:10 am. Unlike a solar eclipse, you don’t need any special shields or instruments to observe; just look directly at the moon.
The complete phenomenon lasts more than five hours, between 10:30 pm and 3:50 am. It’s also nice to follow the partial phases, to see the Moon being obscured by our planet’s shadow, darkening and turning red – due to the optical effect known as Rayleigh scattering, when sunlight is refracted and dispersed in the Earth’s atmosphere – and then coming back. to “normal”.
An eclipse of this type happens when the Sun, Earth and Moon are aligned, in that order. The second total lunar eclipse of the year takes place on November 7th, but it will only be faintly visible in Brazil.
05/16: Full Moon – Flower Moon
Another beautiful night to observe the Moon, which will be 100% illuminated. The full phase of May is called the “Flower Moon” by Native Americans, as it marks the height of spring, with abundant flowers and warm weather — here in the Southern Hemisphere, on the contrary, we are in autumn and cooling down.
It will rise just after sunset, around 6 pm — the exact time in your city can be found in the apps. And the best time to observe it is precisely this one, the first hour after sunrise, as the Moon can show beautiful variations in tonality and appears to be even bigger, due to the effect of atmospheric refraction and the comparison with terrestrial references.
May 29: Conjunction between Mars and Jupiter
Mars and Jupiter will give our sky a cosmic kiss. From Earth’s point of view, they’ll be right next to each other, just half a degree apart. The pair rises around 2 am on the 28th to the 29th, on the eastern horizon, and walks together across the sky, being visible until dawn. With the naked eye, it will even be difficult to separate the brightness of one from the other. Mars, orange, will be on the right; Jupiter, which looks like a large yellowish star, on the left.
Around 4 am, the super-bright planet Venus, known as “Estrela Dalva” is also born. And Saturn is above the three, high in the sky, in a quadruple alignment that makes the dawn more beautiful and worthy of many photographs. As it is a New Moon night, without the moon’s brightness to overshadow it, it is a perfect occasion for observing and recording the stars and planets. A binoculars or telescope make the experience more interesting.
In the following days, the couple moves away, but they remain close and yield good observations.
*With information from NASA and Time and Date.