WHAT’S UP IN THE SKY THIS MAY 2018?

WHAT’S UP IN THE SKY THIS MAY 2018?

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Weather is starting to get even warmer now as the season transitioning to summer here in the UAE. Wondering what’s going to be up in the sky for the new month? The following is a list of astronomical events for May 2018. All dates and times were given in UAE Local Time.

May 5, 2018: Moon – Saturn Conjunction

The bright Waning Gibbous Moon and the ringed planet Saturn will appear close to each other in the sky in the early morning hours of these days. The two will share the same right ascension (about 18h 39m) with an apparent angular separation of about 1.4°. The conjunction will be seen at the east-southeastern horizon from 11:30 PM on May 4 up to sunrise on May 5. Both celestial objects will be situated in the constellation Sagittarius (the archer). Saturn would look like a yellow-orange “star” respectively.

Moon-Saturn Conjunction on May 5, 2018 at around 1 AM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

May 6, 2018: Moon-Mars Close Approach

The red planet Mars and the bright Waning Gibbous Moon will appear close to each other in the sky in the early morning hours of these days. The two will be separated at about 4.5° in the night sky. The close approach will be seen at the east-southeastern horizon from 12:30 AM until sunrise. Both celestial objects will be situated in the constellation Sagittarius (the archer). Mars would look like a fairly bright red-orange “star”. Also visible northeast of the two is Saturn which will appear as yellow-orange “star”.

Moon-Mars Close Approach on May 6, 2018 at around 1:30 AM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

May 7, 2018: Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

On the early morning hours of May 6 and 7, the peak of an average meteor shower known as the Lyrids will take place. It is projected to bring up to 15-20 meteors per hour under completely dark, cloudless skies. These meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Aquarius (the water bearer) at the sky’s east-southeastern portion but can be observed anywhere in the sky from 3 AM all the way through dawn. The space debris from comet Halley entering Earth are the ones responsible for this meteor shower. Unfortunately, the bright waning gibbous Moon will be present throughout the night, washing out much of the fainter detail of the night, reducing the chance of seeing many meteors. But, you might luckily see a bright one once you are patient and enjoy observing the night sky.

Radiant of Eta Aquarids on May 7,2018 at around 4 AM (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

May 9 and 10, 2018 – Jupiter in Opposition

By night time of this day, planet Jupiter will be in opposition. This simply means that the largest solar system planet will appear at its brightest as seen from the sky. Jupiter will be situated directly opposite of the Sun in the sky, which would give it further illumination. With an apparent magnitude of -2.70, it can be seen through the naked eye. Using binoculars, it will appear as a bright white “star” and 4 tiny white dots beside it and more detail of its atmosphere bands and its 4 Galilean moons with a telescope. The planet will be visible all night round in the constellation of Libra (the scales); starting at around 7:30PM after the twilight fades; positioned about 9° above the east-southeastern horizon, reaches its highest point around 49° above the southern horizon at midnight of May 10, 2017, until sunrise when it completely sets.

Jupiter and the Galilean Moons taken from Al Sadeem Observatory on March 1, 2018

May 15, 2018: New Moon

On this day, the moon will not be visible as it will be situated on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, in the constellation of Cetus (the sea monster). With no moonlight glaring much of the night sky, this is the best time to observe the deep sky objects throughout the night. It is predicted that the lunar phase will occur on this day. However, the month transition from Shaban to Ramadan (the Muslims’ holy month) shall take place two days after (May 17) in accordance with the Hijri Calendar 1439.

May 17, 2018: Moon-Venus Close Approach

The Moon and the “evening star” Venus will appear close to each other in the sky on the early evening hours of this day. It will be seen on the western horizon from around 7:30 PM, right after sunset, until the two set at about 8:30 PM. These celestial objects will be situated in the known constellation Taurus (the bull). The Waxing Crescent Moon will be about 5.7° southwest of Venus. With an apparent magnitude of -3.9, Venus would look like a well-distinguished brilliant white “star”.

Moon-Venus Close Approach on May 17, 2018 at around 12:30 AM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

May 27, 2018: Moon – Jupiter Conjunction

The Moon and the largest planet Jupiter will appear close to each other in the sky throughout the night of this day. It will be seen at the east-southeastern horizon from around 7:30 PM until sunrise. These celestial objects will be situated in the faint constellation Libra (the scales). The Waxing Gibbous Moon will be about 3.8° west-northwest of Jupiter. Jupiter would look like a bright white “star”.

Moon-Jupiter Conjunction on May 27, 2018 at around 12:30 AM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

May 29, 2018: Full Moon

Situated on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun, the moon will be fully illuminated (100%) on this day. For selenophiles (people who love the moon), this is the best time to observe all the surface features of this celestial object, including the craters and maria. It will start appearing at around 7 PM (at the eastern horizon) as it rises, and can be seen throughout the night until sunrise positioned in the faint constellation of Ophiuchus (the serpent bearer). Because of its full illumination during this phase, it will not be a good time for deep-sky observation with the entire moonlight glaring out most of the faint celestial objects.

Full Moon taken by Thabet Al Qaissieh at Al Sadeem Observatory, April 29, 2018

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In the UAE and other regions in the Northern Hemisphere, May is still in the spring season and transition period towards the hot summer season. Unless observing under a clear and extremely dark sky, not many bright familiar deep-sky objects can be seen with the naked eye. Nonetheless, such galaxies like the Leo Triplet (a well-known galaxy cluster), as well as some globular clusters like Messier 13 (The Great Pegasus Cluster) and can be photographed. Despite that, solar system planets are starting to show up earlier at night. The “morning/evening star” Venus can be seen in the western portion of the sky few moments after sunset. Planets Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will be visible in the late evening or early morning hours after until sunrise. The other ones, Mercury, Uranus, and Neptune, are either barely or not visible few minutes before sunrise, depending on their respective apparent positions in the sky. For this month, sunrise occurrences range between 5:34 AM and 5:47 AM while sunsets shall happen between 6:51 PM and as late as 7:06 PM.

Have a warm and pleasant May, everyone! Clear skies!

Top: The Leo Triplet, Great Pegasus Cluster Bottom: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn taken from Al Sadeem Observatory

References

Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2018.html

Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: http://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2018&month=1&maxdiff=5 #datesel

Islamic calendar 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from Calendar.sk: https://calendar.zoznam.sk/islamic_calendar-en.php?ly=2018

Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, March 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=5&year=2018

 

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