Exciting celestial events will happen during May, so download our narrated Sky Tour astronomy podcast to find out about this month’s Eta Aquariid meteor shower and a total lunar eclipse.

This episode is sponsored by Celestron, manufacturer of high-quality telescopes and an industry leader in developing exciting optical products with revolutionary technologies.

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As you’ll learn in this month’s Sky Tour astronomy podcast, May features the emergence of Mercury and Venus low in the west after sunset. In fact, this will be Mercury’s best showing in the evening sky all year. Which nights will be best for spotting the elusive innermost planet? The graphic below offers a hint, but to get the very best time to look for it, download this month’s Sky Tour astronomy podcast.

Moon-Mercury-Venus on May 12-13
Soon after sunset, very thin crescent Moons pair beautifully with Venus on May 12th and Mercury on May 13th.
Sky & Telescope

Early in the month, watch for the Eta Aquariid meteor shower before dawn. Each year about this time, Earth glides across Halley’s orbit, and when that happens, we run into rocky grit shed by the comet centuries ago. The bits arrive at 66 kilometers per second — 148,000 miles per hour! The good news is that, when the shower peaks early on May 6th, moonlight won’t be a problem at all.

Meanwhile, the full Moon that occurs on May 26th will be a special one. First, it occurs just 9 hours after the Moon reaches the point in its orbit closest to Earth, its perigee. In fact, on that day the Moon comes closer to Earth than at any other time all year. Tides will be especially strong that day. You’re sure to hear this called a “super Moon,” because it’ll also appear 7% larger and about 15% brighter than average.

The other event on May 26th is that the Moon undergoes a total lunar eclipse — the first one we’ve had in nearly 2½ years. The timing benefits anyone living around the Pacific Ocean. Mid-eclipse is at 4:19 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Everyone in the U.S. from the Rockies westward have a chance to see the Moon totally eclipsed in the hours before sunrise. Those in eastern North America have to settle for glimpsing the last partial phases as the dawn sky brightens — or maybe nothing at all.

These are just some of the highlights covered during May’s engaging and informative Sky Tour podcast. Just head outside, then download or stream it to your audio device — and you’ll get a personally guided tour of what’s visible this month.


Image of Yaron Sheffer

Yaron Sheffer

April 30, 2021 at 4:30 pm

Oh boy, when I saw the name "Halley", my heart skipped a beat. It felt like it suddenly was 2061, the next apparition of Halley's Comet. Alas, we are only 36 years past watching it in 1985, and need to wait another 40... Halley will perform its farthest U-turn in 2023, providing probable photo ops to both JWST (2021 launch?) and the ELT (2025 start?).

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New Jersey Eclipse Fan

April 30, 2021 at 6:09 pm

Halley's Comet actually appeared in 1986, and I was not impressed. If I live to 102, maybe I will be next time.

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J. Kelly Beatty

May 1, 2021 at 6:30 pm

Coin toss, really. Most saw it in 1986 , but many viewed (even naked eye) in late 1985.

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May 2, 2021 at 5:02 am

I got a glimpse of it on the night of September 12-13, 1985 through my Meade DS-10 from Connecticut. It was the first clear night in a few days and I think it was one of the earliest viewings of it in the Northeast U.S. I'd be interested to hear about any amateur seeing it visually before that.

I went on the "World of Oz" tour with Sky and Telescope to Chile and Peru in April, 1986. The comet was swamped by the southern Milky Way, which cast a shadow on the ground from the desert skies of La Serena, Chile. The Magellanic Clouds were so eerie looking, like two ghostly butterflies floating in the ink-black sky. I forgot all about the comet!

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May 6, 2021 at 6:44 am

I did observe some Eta Aqaurid meteors this morning. Here is a note from my stargazing log report. [Observed 0330-0515 EDT/0730-0915 UT. Waning crescent Moon rise 0359/0759 UT. New Moon 11-May-2021 at 1900 UT. Sunrise 0604 EDT/1004 UT. I observed two bright Aquarids this morning. One as bright as Altair zipping westward and another as bright as Vega, zipping south near Saturn position in the sky. Quite a sight here. At least 6 or more faint streaks this morning visible too, perhaps 3rd-5th magnitude streaks. One equatorial orbiting satellite passed by moving through Cygnus. The satellite speed about 8 km/s, the meteors about 66 km/s according to Starry Night and Stellarium 0.21.0. A great difference in movement across the sky here! The satellite was slow 🙂 I also enjoyed views of Saturn using 14-mm Delos at 71x and Jupiter too. Titan and Rhea visible at Saturn. Saturn's sky position was lovely with a variety of stars all around in the FOV. Jupiter, 3 Galilean moons visible and with some cloud bands. I did briefly view the waning crescent Moon rising through some trees using the telescope too. NW quadrant visible with craters along terminator line and Sinus Irdium. Overall, a great early spring morning viewing some of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, waning crescent Moon rising, Jupiter, and Saturn with my 90-mm refractor telescope. Cool temperature 08C with NW winds 320/12 knots. Earlier in the morning before moonrise, I could see some of the Milky Way running through Cygnus and the Summer triangle, Deneb, Vega, and Altair. Delphinus distinct with some 5.4 and 5.6 apparent magnitude stars visible, Eta Delphini, Theta Delphini, and Iota Delphini stars.]

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