by Adam Welbourn
Summer is just around the corner, you can almost feel it in the tingles of warmth you get from the Sun, for those few moments when the wind drops…
After an unusually cold April the forecasts finally show some sign of improvement, and it’s about this time of year that stargazing becomes even more enjoyable!
Yes night might arrive slightly later as each evening passes, but it’s still dark enough early enough to keep kids entertained and help them discover the joys and wonders of the night sky.
So to help you get started (as you knew we would) below we’ve provided some happenings of interest over the coming month, so now you’ve no excuse not to get out under the stars!
Keep watching those skies…
With the New Moon tomorrow it could be a good show, so get out and look up!
Friday 6th May – Today the New Moon rises and sets with the Sun, so now is a good time to observe deep sky objects like galaxies and nebulae, or get a clearer look at objects usually blurred and faint in light polluted skies
The Moon is also at Perigee at a distance of 357,825 km (222,342 miles) from the Earth, the closest it will come on its current orbit
Monday 9th May – This afternoon innermost planet Mercury transits the Sun! It starts its journey across the face of our star about 11:10 UTC (12:10 BST) appearing as a well defined dark dot on the left side of the Sun
Then over the course of the afternoon it slowly travels in an arc towards the middle, before dropping to the bottom of the Sun’s disc and moving out of view around 18:45 UTC (1945 BST)
If you have certified solar viewing equipment it’ll be well worth a look. The next transit of Mercury will be in November 2019
Remember – Never look directly at the Sun, it will damage your eyes!
Friday 13th May – This evening the Moon will be seen at First Quarter phase
Monday 16th May – To help you identify the constellations you can see throughout the month, below we’ve provided guide images for both southern and northern skies in May
Wednesday 18th May – The Moon is at Apogee today at a distance of 405,935 km (252,236 miles), the furthest point its orbit will take it away from the Earth this month
Saturday 21st May – Today’s Full Moon is sometimes known as the Milk Moon, Dragon Moon or Bright Moon, and appears in the sky above Mars
Sunday 22nd May – Mars is at opposition this evening (meaning it is opposite the Sun in the sky) rising at sunset and setting at sunrise
Wednesday 25th May – Now is about the time of year to start looking for noctilucent clouds, which sometimes appear low down in the northwest (after sunset) and northeast (just before sunrise)
These clouds are in the upper atmosphere and are usually too faint to see, becoming visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while the lower layers of the atmosphere are in the Earth’s shadow
Sunday 29th May – This afternoon the Moon is at Last Quarter phase
Monday 30th May – Mars is the closest it has been to the Earth since 2005 this evening. Get out and give it a look, rising to the south east about 19:30 UTC (20:30 BST)
As usual, if you take any photos throughout May you’d like to show us, please tweet them to us using the link below! We’d love to see your efforts and we’ll re-tweet them to your fellow sky-watchers!
Planets visible this month:
Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!
To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy!
Guide images created with Stellarium