Tech UPTechnologyWhat to see in the sky this month (May...

What to see in the sky this month (May 2022)

In May, in Spain we already enter the hot months of the year (although it will be advisable not to lose sight of the tunic). In addition, we leave behind the rains typical of April and with this we arrive at a perfect time to enjoy a nighttime observation of the sky . This month begins and ends with planetary conjunctions, although it will be starred by the lunar eclipse on May 16 . Here is a summary of this month’s night sky highlights.

As we discussed in April, May begins with a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Venus. These two planets, which are the two brightest objects in the sky after the Sun and the Moon, have been approaching each other during the last week of April, reaching an apparent closest approach on the 30th of last month . The exact moment of minimum distance has not been visible from Spain, but both on April 30 and May 1 at dawn we will be able to enjoy these two planets simultaneously in the field of view of our telescopes or binoculars (or with the naked eye, as two very close dots, for several days). The conjunction will be visible from approximately 5:30 to 7:00 in the morning, the exact time depending on which part of Spain you make the observation from.

Of course, although we see them so close in the sky, the real distance between these planets will be enormous , being located hundreds of millions of kilometers from each other. Venus will appear so bright because it is relatively close to Earth , while Jupiter stands out in the night sky because of its sheer size , about 10 times larger in diameter than either Venus or Earth.

At the end of May Mars will occupy the role of Venus and we will be able to enjoy, also at dawn, a conjunction between Mars and Jupiter . The moment of closest approach will be on Sunday , May 29 , shortly before dawn. Although Mars will not be as bright or as close to Jupiter as Venus , it is still worth getting up early to enjoy these two planets simultaneously.

The constellations that were gaining prominence at the beginning of spring will slowly give way to more summery ones. Orion and Sirius say goodbye definitively until the arrival of autumn and Gemini or Cancer will hide sooner and sooner and Libra or Scorpio (with its bright red star Antares) will be seen sooner each time . In addition, other constellations such as the Lyre, the Swan or the Eagle will remain over our heads for more hours .

As far as the Moon is concerned, we will start the month with a crescent moon, since we end April with a new moon, which will reach its maximum on the 16th , when the lunar eclipse will take place. From there it will wane until the new moon on May 30.

This month’s eclipse will be visible mainly from all of South and Central America , but also from southern North America and western Europe and Africa. From Spain it can be seen , like the best astronomical shows of recent months, shortly before dawn . Already from 3:30 in the morning Spanish peninsular time we can begin to appreciate a certain gloom, although it will not be until 4:30 that the true concealment will begin. Between 5:30 and 6:53 the totality phase of the eclipse will last , although the Moon will set behind the horizon before it ends, being just above the horizon at the time of the maximum that will take place at 6:11 in the morning.

This eclipse will be a perfect opportunity, for those who decide to get up early, to see a couple of the most interesting astronomical effects. On the one hand, from 4:30 to 5:30 we can see how the Moon enters the shadow of the Earth , until it is completely covered by it. As long as this happens, we can see how this shadow corresponds to that of a spherical object . In fact, lunar eclipses are one of the most evident proofs that the proposals of flat earthing have no scientific basis. In addition, we can see how, once it has completely hidden, the Moon takes on a reddish hue . This tone comes from the little light that, after passing through the Earth’s atmosphere, is scattered to the lunar surface. The tone of course has the same origin as the reddish tone of sunsets and sunrises . It can only be seen once total occultation has been reached because beforehand the intense brightness of the Moon, reflecting the direct light of the Sun, does not allow us to distinguish the reddish hue, even though it is present.

We recommend those who read us to try to see this eclipse, as it will be the last total lunar eclipse visible from Latin America until March 2025 and from Spain until June 2029 . These phenomena are rare and perfect conditions take time to repeat themselves, so they are well worth a little early start.

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