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May 2019: 3 things stargazers should look for in the night sky

By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
April 26, 2019, 7:43:46 PM EDT


The nights may be growing shorter, but the milder May weather is enticing people to spend more time under the stars.

The upcoming month will feature a variety of astronomical events, including a major meteor shower and a type of full moon that is only seen once every few years.

Here are three astronomy events to mark on your calendar throughout May:

1. Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower
When: May 4-5

A multi-month meteor shower drought came to an end in late April with the peak of the Lyrids, but the nearly full moon hindered viewing conditions. This month’s meteor shower will put on a more impressive light show than the Lyrids, especially for those in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks during the first weekend of May and is visible as the Earth passes through a field of debris left behind by the famous Comet Halley.

The night of Saturday, May 4, into the early morning of Sunday, May 5, will be the best time to view the meteor shower, not only because it is the peak of the shower but also because it falls on the same night as a new moon, meaning there will be no moonlight to disrupt your view.

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The Eta Aquarid shower favors the Southern Hemisphere where onlookers can expect around 40 meteors per hour, according to the International Meteor Organization (IMO).

“From the equator northward, they usually only produce medium rates of 10-30 per hour just before dawn,” the IMO said on their website.

Shooting stars associated with the Eta Aquarids should also be visible on the nights surrounding its peak, but the number of meteors visible per hour will not be as high as the peak night.

2. Blue Moon
When: May 18

A Blue Moon will rise in mid-May around the world, but it's not the type of Blue Moon that many are familiar with.

There are two types of Blue Moons. The most well-known definition is the second full moon in a calendar month. However, May’s full moon falls under the alternate definition.

“One season typically has three full moons. If a season has four full moons, then the third full moon may be called a Blue Moon,” The Old Farmer’s Almanac explained on its website.

On average, Blue Moons only happen once every two or three years, giving birth to the phrase ‘once in a Blue Moon.’

05 18 Blue & Hare Moon.jpg


The Blue Moon will rise on Saturday, May 18, around the globe, although it will not actually appear blue.

May’s full moon is also known as the Full Hare Moon, the Flower Moon, the Budding Moon and the Flower Moon.

3. Jupiter, Moon and Saturn to align
When: May 21

The two largest planets in our solar system will align with the Moon before Memorial Day weekend.

Stargazers can find Jupiter, the moon and Saturn lined up in the southern sky during the early morning hours of May 21. The three should be high enough in the sky by 1 a.m. local time for onlookers to spot.

May 21 Closer.jpg


Folks that miss the celestial alignment can see a similar sight the following night as the moon shifts closer to Saturn.

No telescope is needed to see the planets as they are easy to spot with the unaided eye, but folks with a telescope can focus on Jupiter to spot some of the planet’s largest moons or zoom in on Saturn to see its legendary rings.

Looking back at April

April was filled with major scientific discoveries, not only in our system, but across the universe. On Wednesday, April 10, astronomers released the first-ever image of a black hole. Closer to home, NASA’s InSight lander detected a ‘marsquake,’ the first time a tremor has been detected on another planet.

Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

Scientists have obtained the first image of a black hole, using Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87. The image shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole that is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun.

Photo/SpaceX

The 27 engines of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy powering the megarocket through Earth's atmosphere on April, 11, 2019.

<i>NASA&#39;s InSight lander deployed its Wind and Thermal Shield on Feb. 2 (Sol 66). The shield covers InSight&#39;s seismometer, which was set down onto the Martian surface on Dec. 19. 2019. (Image/NASA/JPL-Caltech)</i>

Photo/SpaceX

The two side boosters of the SpaceX Falcon heavy landing along the coast of Florida on April 11, 2019.

An image showing the surface of Saturn's moon Titan, which is believed to have 'phantom lakes' and caves. (Image: © NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS)

Photo/AccuWeather Astronomy Fan AJ Small

The International Space Station flying over the northeastern United States on April 6, 2019.

Photo/AccuWeather Astronomy Fan Deirdre Horan

The nearly-full moon over Dublin, Ireland, on April 16, 2019.


On April 11, after several weather-related delays, SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket. This was only the second time that the rocket has been launched, and the first time that it was used to send a satellite into orbit around the Earth. All three of the rocket’s first stage boosters landed back on Earth, but the one that landed out at sea did not back to back to land intact.

The Lyrid meteor shower peaked during the early morning of April 22, coinciding with Earth Day. This was the first major meteor shower anywhere in the globe since the Quadrantids during the first days of January. The International Space Station also made incredibly bright passes over the northeastern United States, outshining every star and planet in the sky.


Questions or comments? Email Brian Lada at Brian.Lada@accuweather.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter!



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