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Rounded rocky planet and eclipse of Super Blood Moon




Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Highlights of May Skywatching

What̵

7;s up for May? This month, a rounded rocky planet and a super-bloody lunar eclipse!

  • May 3: The bright planet Saturn will appear to the left of the half-lit Moon.
  • May 4: The moon forms a large triangle to the east-southeast with the bright planets Saturn and Jupiter.
  • Mid-May: You will be able to see all four rocky, inner planets of our solar system at the same time, with your own eyes.
  • May 26: Watch out for a total lunar eclipse during the second supermoon of 2021.

In early mid-May, if you can find a clear view of the western horizon, you will be able to see all four rocky, inner planets of our solar system at the same time with your own eyes.

See all four inner planets

See all four inner planets (including Earth!) After sunset, starting in mid-May. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Starting around May 14, take a look west about half an hour after sunset, local time, to see if you can spot Mercury, Venus, and Mars. (And well, the Earth is hard to miss.)

To see near the horizon, you need an unobstructed view – no nearby trees and buildings. Some of the best places for this are the shores of lakes or beaches, open plains or high on a mountain or a tall building.

In addition to the planets, from about 14 to 17, the crescent joins the party for a beautiful planetary plateau. Venus will be really low in the sky. (It will be easier to observe on your own later in the summer.) But for now, take this opportunity to observe all the inner planets in one view.

The moon is reddish during lunar eclipses

The moon usually appears reddish in color during lunar eclipses due to sunlight filtered through the Earth’s atmosphere. Credit: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

May 26 brings a total lunar eclipse. For several hours, the moon will pass through the earth’s shadow, which will cause it to darken and usually become reddish in color. The color red comes from sunlight filtering through the Earth’s atmosphere – a ring of light created by all the sunrises and sunsets happening around our planet at that time.

Due to the reddish color, lunar eclipses are often called “blood moons”. How red it will look is difficult to predict, but dust in the atmosphere can have an effect. (And keep in mind that there have been several known volcanic eruptions recently.)

Lunar eclipses occur when the Moon is full, and this full moon occurs when the Moon is also near its closest point to Earth in its orbit, often called a “supermoon.”

Unlike solar eclipses, which you should never watch, it is safe to observe lunar eclipses with your own eyes. And unlike solar eclipses, which tend to have a narrower path of view, lunar eclipses are at least partially visible everywhere on the night side of the planet.

Global visibility May 2021. Lunar eclipse

This map shows the global visibility of the lunar eclipse in May 2021. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Eclipses now occur at the same time, no matter where you are on Earth, but how many hours your watch counts during an eclipse depends, of course, on your time zone. The best view for this eclipse is in the Pacific Ocean – these are the western parts of America, Australia and New Zealand and East Asia. For the United States, the best viewing will be in Hawaii, Alaska and the western states.

Visibility of the United States May 2021. Lunar eclipse

The lunar eclipse in May 2021 will be best seen in Hawaii, Alaska and the western United States. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

For the eastern United States, the eclipse begins for you at dawn. You may be able to observe the first part of the eclipse when the Moon simply begins to darken, but the Moon will be near or on the horizon when the Earth’s shadow begins to cover it.

The farther west you are, the more of the eclipse you will be able to see before the moon sets this morning. Those in the western half of the country will be able to see almost the entire eclipse.

So, if you are on the path to this eclipse, check your local time for the best viewing near you. And if you’re in the US, be prepared to get up early if you want to see this rare celestial event: a super blood lunar eclipse.

Daily guide

May 1: May Day

Saturday, May 1, 2021, will be May Day. We currently divide the year into four seasons based on the solstices and equinoxes, with summer starting from the summer solstice in June. This approaches summer as a quarter of the year with the highest temperatures.

Much of pre-Christian Northern Europe celebrated “crossed days” – halfway between the solstices and the equinoxes – dividing the seasons into those days. Using this older definition, summer was the quarter of the year with the longest daylight hours, starting with Beltane, traditionally celebrated on May 1 (mid-spring). Many of Europe’s May Day traditions originate from these earlier celebrations in early summer.

May 3

On Monday morning, May 3, 2021, the planet Saturn will appear to the left of the half-lit moon. Saturn will appear about 8 degrees to the left of the moon when the pair rises east-southeast at 2:22 p.m. EDT. Saturn will appear at about 7 degrees in the upper left part of the moon, as morning twilight begins at 5:03 a.m.

On Monday afternoon, the waning moon will look half full when it reaches its final quarter at 3:50 p.m. EDT.

May 4

By the morning of Tuesday, May 4, 2021, the Moon will shift to form a large east-southeast triangle with the planets Saturn and Jupiter. Saturn will rise first at 2:17 p.m. EDT. The Moon and Jupiter will rise in the lower left of Saturn at about the same time at 3:01 and 3:02 in the morning, with Jupiter about 10 degrees farther to the left of the Moon. The moon will appear about 18 degrees above the southeastern horizon when morning dusk begins at 5:02 p.m.

May 5

By Wednesday morning, May 5, 2021, the Moon will shift to about 6 degrees below Jupiter, rising east-southeast at 3:33 p.m. EDT about 1.5 hours before the beginning of the morning twilight at 5:01 p.m. In the morning, with Saturn appearing at the top right.

May 11

Tuesday afternoon, May 11, 2021, around 1:24 p.m. EDT (2021-May-11 5:24 PM UTC with 12-minute uncertainty), Near-Earth Object (2021 GK1), between 33 and 74 feet and 23 meters) will traverse the Earth at 1.5 lunar distances traveling at 4,500 miles per hour (2.01 kilometers per second).

Tuesday at 3:00 PM EDT will be the new moon when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. Because this New Moon is close when the Moon is furthest from Earth in its orbit, some have begun to use the term “micromoon” to indicate the opposite of “supermoon.”

Tuesday at 5:54 p.m. EDT, the Moon will be at its apogee, furthest from Earth for this orbit.

May 11-12

The day of – or the day after – the New Moon marks the beginning of the new month for most lunisolar calendars. The sunset on May 11, 2021 marks the beginning of Sivan in the Hebrew calendar. The fourth month of the Chinese calendar begins on May 12, 2021 (at midnight in China’s time zone, which is 12 hours before EDT). In the Islamic calendar, the months begin with the first observation of the rising crescent after the New Moon. Depending on whether the crescent is actually visible (for many Muslim communities viewed from the holy city of Mecca), sunset on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, could mark the beginning of Shawal and the end of the holy month of Ramadan. This marks the end of the one-month fast of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, a holiday that can last up to three days in some countries.

Early Wednesday night, May 12, 2021, you can see the very thin, rising crescent low on the west-northwest horizon, appearing to the left of Venus about 30 minutes after sunset, until the pair settles about 5 minutes before dusk. it’s over. However, the sky may be too bright and the crescent moon too thin to be seen without binoculars or a telescope.

May 13

Early on Thursday evening, May 13, 2021, the planet Mercury will appear about 3 degrees to the right of the thin, waxy crescent. The pair will appear about 8 degrees above the west-northwest horizon when evening twilight ends (at 9:19 p.m. EDT), and Mercury will settle first about 47 minutes later at 10:06 p.m. 6 minutes later.

May 15

Saturday night, May 15, 2021, will be when the planet Mercury will reach its highest point above the horizon, when the evening twilight ends for this phenomenon, about 7 degrees above the west-northwest horizon.

Also on Saturday night, the rising crescent will appear west-northwest in the lower right corner of the planet Mars, and the pair will settle around midnight.

May 16

By Sunday evening, May 16, 2021, the rising crescent will shift to appear in the lower left corner of the bright star Pollux, and the pair will adjust about 3.5 hours after the end of the evening twilight (Monday morning around 12 : 49 hours EDT)

May 17

Monday morning, May 17, 2021, will be when the planet Mercury reaches its greatest angular separation from the Sun, as seen from Earth for this phenomenon (called the greatest elongation), appearing half-lit through a sufficiently large telescope. Because the angle of the line between the Sun and Mercury and the horizon changes with the seasons, the date when Mercury and the Sun appear furthest as seen from Earth is not the same as when Mercury appears highest above the horizon when the evening twilight is over.

May 19

On Wednesday afternoon, May 19, 2021, the moon will appear half full when it reaches its first quarter at 3:13 p.m. EDT. Starting Wednesday night, the bright planet Venus will join Mercury above the west-northwest horizon when the evening twilight is over.

May 19-20

On Wednesday night, Thursday morning, May 19-20, the rising crescent moon will appear above the bright star Regulus, with Regulus setting first on Thursday morning around 2:07 AM EDT.

May 23-24

On Sunday night against Monday morning, May 23-24, the rising moon will appear to the left of the bright star Spica, initially about 7 degrees apart and splitting at night, with Spica setting first on Monday morning around 3 p.m. : 52 am EDT.

In late May or early June 2021 (2021-May-25 09:26 UTC with 7 days, 17 hours, 11 minutes uncertainty), an object close to Earth (2013 VO11), between 19 and 43 feet (6 and 13 meters) in, will travel the Earth at between 3.1 and 43.4 lunar distances (nominally 3.4), traveling at 22,800 miles per hour (10.18 kilometers per second).

May 25

Tuesday night, May 25, 2021, at 9:51 p.m. EDT, the Moon will be in perigee, closest to Earth for this orbit.

May 26

May 26 brings a total lunar eclipse. For several hours, the moon will pass through the earth’s shadow, causing it to darken and usually become reddish in color. The color red comes from sunlight filtering through the Earth’s atmosphere – a ring of light created by all the sunrises and sunsets happening around our planet at that time.

The best view for this eclipse is in the Pacific Ocean – these are the western parts of America, Australia and New Zealand and East Asia. For the United States, the best viewing will be in Hawaii, Alaska and the western states.

Lunar eclipses occur when the Moon is full, and this full moon occurs when the Moon is also near its closest point to Earth in its orbit, often called a “supermoon.”

This is the second supermoon of 2021 and occurs at 7:14 a.m. EDT Wednesday. (The first supermoon of the year was on April 26.) The moon will appear full from Monday night to Thursday morning.

Preston Deich, Christopher Harris and Lisa Pozhe are the scientific communicators and space enthusiasts who produce this monthly NASA video series in the jet propulsion lab. Additional astronomy guidance is provided by Bill Dunford, Gary Spiers and Lyle Tavernier.

NASA’s retired program manager Gordon Johnston provides day-to-day guidance.




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