What’s Up – May 2017

Events of interest for May ….

May – Aurora season is coming to an end, as the nights become shorter and less dark we will have to wait until September before it picks up pace again.. Please visit our sister site AUK – Aurora UK for “real time” notifications. Also look out for Nacreous clouds – the high “oil puddle” in the sky and also Noctilucent clouds 😉
3rd May – MOON – The Moon will be prominent in the evening sky, setting around midnight. From Scarborough, it will become visible at around 20:59 (BST) as the dusk sky fades, 46° above your south-western horizon. It will then sink towards the horizon, setting 6 hours and 20 minutes after the Sun at 02:52. At this time in its monthly cycle of phases, it appears almost exactly half illuminated.

6th May – METEORS – The η–Aquarid meteor shower will reach its maximum rate of activity on 6 May 2017. Some shooting stars associated with the shower are expected to be visible each night from 24 Apr to 20 May. The maximum rate of meteors expected to be visible is around 40 per hour (ZHR). However, this assumes a perfectly dark sky and that the radiant of the meteor shower is directly overhead. In practice, the number of meteors you are likely to see is lower than this, and can be calculated from the ZHR formula. From Scarborough, the radiant of the shower will appear 23° below your north-eastern horizon at midnight. This means the shower will be unobservable, as the radiant will be below the horizon. The radiant of the η–Aquarid meteor shower is at around right ascension 22h30m, declination -01°, as shown by the green cross on the planetarium above. All of the meteors will appear to be travelling directly outward from this point, as indicated by the white lines drawn above. The Moon will be 10 days old at the time of peak activity, and being so close to Full Moon will severely limit the observations that will be possible. To see the most meteors, the best place to look is not directly at the radiant itself, but at any dark patch of sky which is around 30–40° away from it. It is at a distance of around this distance from the radiant that meteors will show reasonably long trails without being too spread out.

7th May – MOON/JUPITER – The Moon and Jupiter will make a close approach, passing within 1°59′ of each other. The Moon will be 11 days old. From Scarborough, the pair will be visible in the evening sky, becoming accessible at around 21:12 (BST) as the dusk sky fades, 27° above your south-eastern horizon. They will then reach its highest point in the sky at 22:53, 31° above your southern horizon. They will continue to be observable until around 03:37, when they sink to 8° above your western horizon. The Moon will be at mag -12.5, and Jupiter at mag -2.4, both in the constellation Virgo. The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.

8th May – JUPITER/MAKEMAKE – Jupiter and 136472 Makemake will share the same right ascension, with Jupiter passing 29°43′ to the south of 136472 Makemake. From Scarborough, the pair will be visible all night. They will become visible at around 21:11 (BST) as the dusk sky fades, 55° above your south-eastern horizon. They will be lost to dawn twilight at around 04:42, 22° above your western horizon. Jupiter will be at mag -2.4 in the constellation Virgo, and 136472 Makemake at mag 17.0 in the neighbouring constellation of Coma Berenices.

9th May – MOON/HAUMEA – The Moon and 136108 Haumea will share the same right ascension, with the Moon passing 25°39′ to the south of 136108 Haumea. The Moon will be 13 days old. From Scarborough, the pair will be visible all night. They will become visible at around 21:13 (BST) as the dusk sky fades, 41° above your south-eastern horizon. They will be lost to dawn twilight at around 04:40, 25° above your western horizon. The Moon will be at mag -12.5 in the constellation Virgo, and 136108 Haumea at mag 17.3 in the neighbouring constellation of Bootes.

10th May – FULL MOON – The Moon will reach full phase. At this time in its monthly cycle of phases, the Moon lies almost directly opposite the Sun in the sky, placing it high above the horizon for much of the night. The sequence of full moons through the year are often assigned names according to the seasons in which they fall. This month’s will be the second to fall in spring 2017 – the Milk Moon. Over the nights following 10 May, the Moon will rise around an hour later each day, becoming prominent later in the night. Within a few days, it will only be visible in the pre-dawn and early-morning sky. By the time it reaches last quarter, a week after full moon, it will rise at around midnight and set at around noon. At the exact moment when the Moon reaches full phase, it will lie at a declination of -13°01′ in the constellation Libra , and so will appear highest in the southern hemisphere. It will be visible from all latitudes north of 66°N. Its distance from the Earth will be 404,000 km.

11th May – GLOBULAR CLUSTER – The globular cluster M5 (NGC 5904) in Serpens will be well placed for observation. It will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time. At a declination of +02°04′, it is visible across much of the world; it can be seen at latitudes between 72°N and 67°S. From Scarborough, it will be visible all night. It will become visible at around 22:55 (BST) as the dusk sky fades, 31° above your south-eastern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight at around 03:02, 32° above your south-western horizon. At magnitude 5.8, M5 is quite faint, and certainly not visible to the naked eye, but can be viewed through a pair of binoculars or small telescope.

13th May – METEORS – The α–Scorpiid meteor shower will reach its maximum rate of activity on 13 May 2017. Some shooting stars associated with the shower are expected to be visible each night from 20 Apr to 19 May. The maximum rate of meteors expected to be visible is around 5 per hour (ZHR). However, this assumes a perfectly dark sky and that the radiant of the meteor shower is directly overhead. In practice, the number of meteors you are likely to see is lower than this, and can be calculated from the ZHR formula. From Scarborough, the radiant of the shower will appear 4° above your south-eastern horizon at midnight. This means you are likely to see only around 0 meteors per hour, since the radiant will be low in the sky, reducing the chance of seeing meteors. The radiant of the α–Scorpiid meteor shower is at around right ascension 16h50m, declination -24°, as shown by the green cross on the planetarium above. All of the meteors will appear to be travelling directly outward from this point, as indicated by the white lines drawn above. The Moon will be 17 days old at the time of peak activity, and being so close to Full Moon will severely limit the observations that will be possible. To see the most meteors, the best place to look is not directly at the radiant itself, but at any dark patch of sky which is around 30–40° away from it. It is at a distance of around this distance from the radiant that meteors will show reasonably long trails without being too spread out.

14th May – MOON/SATURN – The Moon and Saturn will make a close approach, passing within 3°04′ of each other. The Moon will be 17 days old. From Scarborough, the pair will be difficult to observe as they will appear no higher than 13° above the horizon. They will be visible in the morning sky, becoming accessible at around 00:58, when they rise 7° above your south-eastern horizon. They will then reach its highest point in the sky at 03:18, 13° above your southern horizon. They will be lost to dawn twilight at around 04:29, 12° above your southern horizon. The Moon will be at mag -12.4, and Saturn at mag 0.1, both in the constellation Sagittarius. The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.

15th May – MOON/PLUTO – The Moon and 134340 Pluto will share the same right ascension, with the Moon passing 2°21′ to the north of 134340 Pluto. The Moon will be 19 days old. From Scarborough, the pair will be difficult to observe as they will appear no higher than 14° above the horizon. They will be visible in the dawn sky, rising at 00:57 (BST) – 4 hours and 2 minutes before the Sun – and reach an altitude of 14° above the southern horizon before fading from view as dawn breaks at around 04:29. The Moon will be at mag -12.3, and 134340 Pluto at mag 15.0, both in the constellation Sagittarius. The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible through a pair of binoculars.

17th May – MERCURY – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 25.8 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

20th May – DSO’s – with the new moon only 5 days away, the next 10 days will be a great time for looking at those Dark Sky Objects (DSO’s).

25th MAY – NEW MOON – The Moon will pass close to the Sun and become lost in the Sun’s glare for a few days. The Moon’s orbital motion carries it around the Earth once every four weeks, and as a result its phases cycle from new moon, through first quarter, full moon and last quarter, back to new moon once every 29.5 days. This motion also means that the Moon travels more than 12° across the sky from one night to the next, causing it to rise and set nearly an hour later each day.
Dates highlighted in BOLD are good photographic opportunities
AIUK – Astronomy Imaging UK – https://www.facebook.com/groups/453388178104679/

sister group to ……

AUK – Aurora UK – https://www.facebook.com/groups/AuroraUK/

Note: Times are UK (BST) unless noted differently.

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