Find out what to go out and look at this month

Planets:

The planets on the 15/05/21 at 05:00 am. Image Credit: Stellarium

Mercury is still the only planet in the early evening, and it can be found very low in the West at the start of this month. it’s located in the constellation of Taurus (The Bull) but it disappears halfway through May. Venus can be observed in the constellation of Pisces (The Fish) for almost the entirety of May before it moves into the constellation of Cetus (The Sea-Monster) at the very end of May. Mars appears at the start of the month in the constellation of Aquarius (The Water-Bearer), and halfway through May, it’ll move into the constellation of Pisces where it will end the month in a conjunction with Jupiter.

Jupiter can be in the constellation of Pisces throughout May between Mars and Venus, but Mars will move closer and closer to the point where Mars and Jupiter should be viewable together in a telescope eyepiece on Thursday the 30th of May. Saturn leads the alignment of the planets and can be found in the constellation of Capricornus (The Sea-Goat) throughout May. Uranus has returned out of the Sun’s glare in the early morning halfway through May. You’ll be able to find it in the constellation of Aries (The Ram). Neptune can be located above Mars and Jupiter in the constellation of Pisces for all of May.

EventUTC TimeTime in Perth*
Penumbral Eclipse begins16 May at 01:32:0516 May at 9:32:05 am
Partial Eclipse begins16 May at 02:27:5216 May at 10:27:52 am
Full Eclipse begins16 May at 03:29:0316 May at 11:29:03 am
Maximum Eclipse16 May at 04:11:2816 May at 12:11:28 pm
Full Eclipse ends16 May at 04:53:5516 May at 12:53:55 pm
Partial Eclipse ends16 May at 05:55:0716 May at 1:55:07 pm
Penumbral Eclipse ends16 May at 06:50:4916 May at 2:50:49 pm

Alignments, Conjunctions And Occultations:

Conjunctions involve objects in the Solar System, and more distant objects, such as a star. It’s an apparent phenomenon caused by the observer’s perspective where multiple objects that aren’t close together appear close in the sky.

In an occultation, an object passes across the line of sight between an observer and another object. A solar eclipse is an occultation of the Sun by the Moon.

  • 01/05/22 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter (Where to look)
  • 06/05/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Castor and Pollux (Where to look)
  • 12/05/22 – Alignment of Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 13/05/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Spica (Where to look)
  • 17/05/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Antares (Where to look)
  • 24/05/22 – Alignment of The Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 25/05/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Mars and Jupiter (Where to look)
  • 26/05/22 – Alignment of The Moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter (Where to look)
  • 27/05/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Venus, plus Mars and Jupiter (Where to look)
  • 29/05/22 – Conjunction Mars and Jupiter (Where to look)
  • 30/05/22 – Conjunction Mars and Jupiter (Where to look)

Astronomical Events This Month:

The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower:

On the night of the 6th/7th of May, the Eta Aquarids meteor shower will be at its peak. The shower is active from the 19th of April through to the 28th of May and it’s caused by the famous Comet Halley. The Eta Aquarids are one of two meteor showers caused by Comet Halley, with the other shower being October’s Orionids. Halley’s orbit around the Sun takes 75 years with the next entering the inner system again in 2061.

The meteors will seem to appear from the Aquarius constellation which gives the meteor shower its name. Aquarius will appear in the sky over the Perth hills around 11:30 pm so you should go out around 4:00 am and give your eyes 15 minutes to fully adjust to the lighting conditions and look between North and North East. While it’s always best to find a nice park or a large open space for the best viewing of a meteor shower, you can go out to our front or back yard and still get a good view.

This year, the Moon will have set by the time the Aquarius constellation starts to rise so we won’t have to deal with any light pollution from it. In dark sky areas, you should see up to 50 meteors per hour, while in the cities and towns, we may only see 5 to 15 meteors.

The Eta Aquarids on the 06/05/22 at 04:00 am. Image Credit: Stellarium
Meteors from the Eta Aquarids. Image Credit: So Perth
Total Lunar Eclipse:

On Monday the 16th of May, the Moon passes within Earth’s inner shadow called the Umbra (Latin for shadow) in what’s called a Total Lunar Eclipse. At the start of the eclipse, the Earth’s shadow first darkens the Moon slightly as it moves through the Earth’s outer shadow called the Penumbra (from the Latin paene “almost, nearly”). Then the Umbra begins to slowly cover the Moon before turning it an orange colour. The orange appearance of the Moon is due to Rayleigh scattering where the blue part of the light hitting the Earth’s atmosphere is scattered by the nitrogen molecules and the red and yellow part of the light continues through the atmosphere and goes on to hit the Moon.

This is the first of two Total Lunar Eclipses for 2022 and unfortunately, it will only be visible from North and South America, Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia. We’ll be able to see it here through the internet. Our friends at Timeanddate.com will be live streaming the eclipse and you can view it here.

EventUTC TimeTime in Perth*
Penumbral Eclipse begins16 May at 01:32:0516 May at 9:32:05 am
Partial Eclipse begins16 May at 02:27:5216 May at 10:27:52 am
Full Eclipse begins16 May at 03:29:0316 May at 11:29:03 am
Maximum Eclipse16 May at 04:11:2816 May at 12:11:28 pm
Full Eclipse ends16 May at 04:53:5516 May at 12:53:55 pm
Partial Eclipse ends16 May at 05:55:0716 May at 1:55:07 pm
Penumbral Eclipse ends16 May at 06:50:4916 May at 2:50:49 pm
Total Lunar Eclipse viewing map. Image Credit: timeanddate.com
Total Lunar Eclipse in May 2022 viewing map. Image Credit: timeanddate.com
Total Lunar Eclipse diagram. Image Credit: Bob King and Starry Night

Things To Look At This Month:

Sombrero Galaxy:

Sombrero Galaxy (M104 & NGC 4594) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation borders of Virgo (The Virgin) and Corvus (The Crow) that we see almost edge-on. While the galaxy is slightly smaller than ours at a diameter of 85,000 light-years, it does contain an estimated 400 billion stars which are about 4 times more than our galaxy. The galaxy is 32 million light-years away from us and it’s the dominating member of a small group of galaxies called the M104 group. It’s estimated to be 13 billion years old and its supermassive black hole which is located at the centre of the galaxy is hundreds of times the mass of the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole.

The Sombrero Galaxy was first discovered in 1767 by French astronomer Pierre Méchain. Charles Messier had made a note about this galaxy and four other objects (M104-M109), but they weren’t officially included in the Messier Catalogue. The Sombrero Galaxy contains both features normally found in spiral and elliptical galaxies. Like many spiral galaxies, it has a strong disk shape, spiral arms, no central bar and strong, prominent dust lanes. It also contains a huge central bulge that extends 10,000LY beyond the extent of its spiral structure which is far larger than normal spiral galaxies.

The Sombrero Galaxy’s dust ring is symmetrical and encircles the bulge of the galaxy and it’s the primary site of star formation. The dust ring contains more than a thousand globular clusters which is six times the size of the Milky Way. The Sombrero Galaxy is moving away from us at great than 1,000 km per second. It’s one of the fastest moving galaxies in our backyard and its measurement was first made by an American astronomer Vesto Slipher in 1912, which was one of the first clues that our universe is expanding.

Sombrero Galaxy on the 15/05/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Sombrero Galaxy. Image Credit:
ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R. Gendler and J.-E. Ovaldsen
Eight-Burst Nebula:

The Eight-Burst Planetary Nebula (NGC 3132) also known as the Southern Ring Nebula is a bright planetary nebula in the constellation Vela. It’s 2,000 light-years away from us and is 0.4 light-years across. The name “planetary nebula” refers to the round shape and in reality, it has nothing to do with planets but due to it appearing like a planet. The round shape is huge shells of gas ejected a star as it nears the end of its life and is expanding away from the central star at a speed of 15 km per second.

Images of the nebula show two stars close together within the nebulosity with the white dwarf that created the nebula being the fainter of these two stars. The white dwarf is at a temperature of 100,000 K and has now blown off its layers. The intense ultraviolet radiation that comes off the white dwarf is making the nebula fluoresce brightly.

The Eight-Burst Nebula on the 15/05/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Eight-Burst Nebula. Image Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA/NASA/ESA)
Omega Centauri:

Omega Centauri or NGC 5139 is the largest and brightest globular cluster of 180 in the Milky Way and is the second-largest known, with only Mayall II in the Andromeda Galaxy being larger coming ins about twice its mass. The Globular cluster is located in Centaurus Constellation and it’s a naked eye ‘star’ and visible in binoculars as a ‘fuzzy blob’. Omega Centauri contains at least 3 million stars and the cluster has a diameter of roughly 150 light-years and the stars are roughly 12 billion years old. The average distance between the stars at the centre is around 10% of a light-year or more than 100 times the diameter of our solar system. It may be a dwarf galaxy that has been captured and disrupted by the Milky Way galaxy and measurements of its star movement by Hubble has indicated that a black hole may be located at the core of the cluster.

Omega Centauri on the 15/05/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
Omega Centauri. Image Credit: Perth Observtory Volunteer Andrew Lockwood
Southern Pleiades:

An open cluster, the Southern Pleiades (IC 2602) can be found very close in the constellation Carina and is named after the Pleiades Cluster due to their similarity. This cluster is one of the closest to us at 547 light-years away from Earth, and it contains about 60 stars. The cluster is believed to be 50 million years old and was discovered by French astronomer Abbé Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille in 1751 from South Africa.

They’re the third-brightest open cluster in the sky, following the Hyades and are 70% fainter than the Pleiades Cluster the brightest Cluster. Like its northern counterpart, the Southern Pleiades is best viewed with large binoculars or telescopes with a wide-angle eyepiece.

Southern Pleiades on the 15/05/22 at 9:00pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Southern Pleiades. Image credit: Tel Lekatsas

Phases Of The Moon:

May 2022 Moon phases