Eta Aquariid meteor shower, Ramadan moon sighting, and more: What to expect in the night sky this May

Eta Aquariid meteor shower, Ramadan moon sighting, and more: What to expect in the night sky this May

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To those who were let down by last April’s washed outLyrid meteor shower—fret not. There’s another major meteor shower coming our way this May.

And while it’s an annual night sky treat, this year’s Eta Aquariid meteor shower finds itself in a special circumstance—its peak coincides with the customary Moon sighting activity to determine the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

The New Moon occurs on May 4, and local astronomers predict that the appearance of the new crescent Moon will likely fall on Monday, May 6.

The Aquariidsbegin to show off its luster in the early morning hours of May 5, with an estimated 15 to 20 bright streaks per hour. The peak can be observed until May 7.

Rest assured the while the Moon waxes to a crescent in this period, it won’t obscure the Aquariids.

“The Waxing Crescent Moon sets early in the evening. So there will be no Moon to interfere during the meteor shower, unlike what happened during the Lyrids last April when the gibbous Moon snagged the spotlight,” said AldrinGabuya, Al Sadeem Astronomy Observatory’s resident astronomer.

The estimated number of meteors per hour may seem unimpressive, but theEta Aquariid meteors take pride on being“earthgrazers,” or “the long meteors that appear to skim the surface of the Earth at the horizon,” according to NASA.

This month’s meteor shower got its name from Aquarius constellation, where the meteors appear to radiate or originate in the heavens. But don’t focus on the radiant alone. Instead, keep your eyes peeled and be vigilant in scanning the entire night sky to get the most out of the moonless meteor shower spectacle.

Radiant of Eta Aquariids on May 7, 2019 at 4 A.M. (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

No Moon? More deep-sky objects

A night sky sans the Moon is the best time to hunt down your favorite deep-sky objects. So before Luna makes its appearance again, look for galaxies like the Bode, Cigar, Sombrero, and the Whirlpool, as well as globular clusters of Messier 53 and Omega Centauri.

Top: Saturn, Jupiter, Bottom: Sombrero Galaxy, Messier 53, Whirlpool Galaxy (Image Credit: AldrinGabuya/Al Sadeem Astronomy)

Once the Moon goes full phase on May 18 at 7 P.M., Eastern horizon, it’s the turn of the selenophiles—or those who are fond of the Moon—to have the best night to observe all the surface features of this celestial object, including the craters and the lunar maria, or the large, dark, basaltic plains on Earth’s Moon.

Full Moon taken from Al Sadeem Observatory last April 19, 2019

A spotlight on planets

Of course, May nights won’t be complete without a number of visible planets gracing the sky. Pay attention to the “very bright stars” close to the Moon, and see if they twinkle. If they don’t, then its Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn.

Meanwhile, chances of seeing Mercury, Uranus, and Neptune are highly unlikely for this month.

Planet Venus can be spotted in the east just before sunrise for the entire May. But sometime near or on May 1, the brightest planet can be seen near the waning crescent Moon.

Come May 8, the red planet Mars joins the Moon at the east-southeastern horizon of the sky in the constellation of Gemini (The Twins). The pair can be observed as early as 7:15 in the evening.

Moon-Mars Close Approach on May 8, 2019 at around 8 PM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

On May 20, two days after the Moon’s full phase, Jupiter will swing by the Earth’s satellite, appearing as a bright “white star” in the sky. Catch the pair at the east-southeastern around 9 P.M., in the faint constellation of Ophiuchus, or the Serpent Bearer.

Moon-Jupiter Conjunction on May 20, 2019 at around 11 PM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

Finally, astronomy buffs would not miss the yellow-orange looking star that sits so close to the Moon on May 23. It’s the ringed planet Saturn. The pair can be spotted at 10:45 P.M.in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), just southeast of the horizon. –CV

Moon-Saturn Conjunction on May 23, 2019 at around 1 AM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

References

Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2019.html

Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: http://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2019&month=5&maxdiff=5#datesel

Islamic calendar 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from Calendar.sk: https://calendar.zoznam.sk/islamic_calendar-en.php?ly=2019

Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, March 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=5&year=2019

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