This month sees the evenings grow longer which means less hours of darkness. However, as we are entering the summer, evenings are also getting warmer which makes it more comfortable to go out and enjoy the sky. This month, the highlight will be a total lunar eclipse where the Moon will go a deep red colour. The only problem is that is happens early in the morning on Monday 16th May. This means you’ll have to get up around 4am to see the show. I’ve included more details of the eclipse at the bottom of this article.
Sun and Moon
|Date||Sunrise (Irish Time)||Sunset (Irish Time)|
For the first half of the month Mercury is well placed in the evening sky. For the first week of May it doesn’t set for 2 hours after the Sun. Look for it low in the northwest after sunset. In the second half of the month, Mercury gets closer and closer to the Sun before passing it and becoming a poorly positioned morning object during the last week of May.
Venus remains in the Morning sky during may. It will be very bright and unmistakable in the east about 40 mins before Sunrise. It will be very close to Jupiter at the very start of the month but will slowly move to the east as the month goes on. On the morning of 27th May, look out of Venus next to a thin crescent Moon.
Mars is in the morning sky this month. It rises about 1.5 hours before the Sun at the start of the month and this will improve as the days pass. By the end of May it will rise 2 hours before the Sun and will have brightened slightly too. Look for it low in the southeast. During the last few days of May Mars will get very close to Jupiter. The pair will have their closest approach on 29th May.
Visible in the early morning sky. It rises about 40 mins before the Sun at the start of the month. At the start of May Jupiter will appear close to Venus. As the month progresses, Venus moves away as Jupiter and Mars converge. Jupiter will be very bright and can be seen in the southeast. On the morning of 25th May, Jupiter and Mars will also be joined in the southeast by the 25% lit Moon.
Saturn is in also in the Morning sky but is quite dim. It rises before the rest of the planets currently in the morning sky, rising around 2.30am in the east. You can can look for Saturn anytime after this low in the southeast although don’t leave it too close to Sunrise or the twilight will make it impossible to see.
Stars and Constellations
The above sky chart is for 23:00 on 15/05/2022. You can click on the chart to open a new tab and bring you to Heavens Above. On this website you can generate a custom chart for the time and date you wish. As we can see, this month the winter constellations are gone and the spring constellations of Leo (the lion), Bootes (the herdsman) and Virgo (the virgin) take prominence in the South. An interesting fact about the constellation of Virgo is that the galaxy M87 is located in Virgo. M87 contains the supermassive black hole which astronomers managed to image the shadow of in 2019.
If we look directly overhead we can see Ursa Major (the bear), also known as the Plough and out to the west we have Gemini (the twins) and Auriga (the charioteer). Over in the east we can see the first signs of the summer constellations. Cygnus (the swan), Lyra (the liar) and Aquila (the eagle). The brightest stars in these constellations are Deneb, Vega and Altair and they make up the Summer Triangle which we will see rise overhead in June and July. Hercules (the Hunter) is also to the east at this time of year.
The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower peaks on the 6th May 2022 and the Moon is out of the way. It’s not the best meteor shower with a ZHR of 55. However, It may be still worth taking a look though, as these meteors are caused by the dust left by the famous Halley’s Comet.
This May 16th we will be treated to a total lunar eclipse. This one will require some effort as it happens very early in the morning. Plan on getting an early night on the 15th. A lunar eclipse is when the Moon moves through the shadow cast by the Earth. This causes the Moon to turn a dark shade of red. One of the best things about eclipses is that you don’t need any equipment at all to watch them. Technically the eclipse begins at 1.32am but this will be impossible to see. The main show kicks off around 3.27am when the Moon starts to enter the darker part of the shadow. The Moon will then continue to darken until it sets at 5.12am. The best time to view the eclipse will be any time between 4.30am and 5am.