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stargazing

May Stargazing Schedule–40 Shooting Stars Per Hour Under the Aquariid Meteor Shower

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May is a relatively quiet month for stargazing, but three events stand out as the best chance to connect with the cosmos, and we start with number 2.

On the pre-dawn hours of May 7th, the Earth will pass through the Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower, when 40 meteors may be seen per hour, with those closest to the Equator seeing more than those closer to the polls.

The “radiant point,” that is, the place in the sky where the meteors seem to radiate from, will be the constellation Aquarius and will be hanging low in the southern sky (or northern sky if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere).

The morning of May 7th is predicted to be the peak, but the meteors can be seen several weeks either side of the peak.

The full moon of May will happen two nights before the meteor shower’s peak. On Cinco de Mayo, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia/Oceania, there will be a penumbral lunar eclipse. For those in the US, UK, many islands in the Pacific, and the Kamchatka Peninsula, it will be too bright and sunny to see.

The Earth’s partial shadow—known in stargazing as the “penumbra,” will shade the full “Flower moon” or “Budding moon” a dusty brown color that’s usually not noticeable by the naked eye. However, the magnitude of this penumbral eclipse is well above the degree to which the human eye can see the changes.

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Watch Mars Kiss Our Cresent Moon – the Highlight of April Stargazing

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As we are only a week of waxing away from the full moon of April, it’s worth taking a look at other celestial sightseeing opportunities in the springing month.

Around midnight of Wednesday, April 5th, the Pink Moon will fully illuminate the sky. Also known as the Paschal Moon, it sets the date for Easter on the Sunday after the first full moon in April.

Despite cherry blossoms and other flowers heralding spring, the Pink Moon is not actually pink. The name corresponds with the early springtime blooms of Phlox subulata—commonly called creeping phlox or moss phlox, native to North America where Old Farmer’s Almanac keeps track of all the names given by a mix of settlers and native tribes.

For example, you have Moon When the Ducks Come Back (Lakota), Moon When the Geese Lay Eggs (Dakota), Frog Moon (Cree), Breaking Ice Moon (Algonquin), and Budding Moon (Tlingit).

Further out into space, the second half of April will present some excellent viewing opportunities for those with a telescope or binoculars.

On April 15th, overnight into the 16th, the planet Saturn will come within very close proximity to the Moon. They will appear just 3° apart, and while the ringed planet can be seen by the naked eye, a decent pair of binos will allow you to see the rings.

On April 20th, for those readers from Indonesia, Timor Leste, and Australia, particularly in the Ningaloo area, there will be a hybrid solar eclipse.

That means that as the eclipse travels along the path of totality, depending on where you are along it, you will see different shapes pass over the sun as the moon’s shadow affects viewing on Earth.

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Stargazing in December: Check Out the ‘Mars Ballet’, a Meteor Shower, and The ‘Cold Moon’

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If you don’t mind the nip of the cold, this month’s celestial phenomena are ones to watch, and include a Nutcracker ballet between the Moon and Mars, and the king of the meteor showers.

Mars is at its brightest this December between the 7th and 8th, when an occultation occurs. This is the passing of the Moon directly across Mars, and will take place between late night on the 7th and early morning on the 8th, depending on your location.

The Griffith Observatory in California will be streaming the celestial event.

Mars will also partake in a pas de deux with the Sun when on the night of the 8th, the Red Planet will be perfectly framed with the light of the sun passing around the Earth. The surface details of Mars will be visible with telescopes and binoculars on this night.

Orbiting back to the Moon, it will be full on the 8th of December, and is the last full-moon of autumn.

The full moon this month is known as the Cold Moon, for obvious reasons. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has collected the traditional names for moons from the Native Americans, and they are as follows: Drift Clearing Moon (Cree) Frost Exploding Trees Moon (Cree), Moon of the Popping Trees (Oglala), Hoar Frost Moon (Cree), Snow Moon (Haida, Cherokee), Winter Maker Moon (Western Abenaki), Moon When the Deer Shed Their Antlers (Dakota), Little Spirit Moon (Anishinaabe), and Long Night Moon (Mohican).

Also in December is the Winter Solstice, the last day of autumn and the longest night of the year.

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