April 28, 2013

What's Up in May: Signs of spring abound in the heavens


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Annular means that there is a brilliant ring of sunlight left around the sun since the moon is a little too far from Earth to completely cover the sun, as it would in the much more dramatic total solar eclipse.

An annular eclipse is still exciting since it looks the same as a total eclipse in all of the phases going in and coming out, except for the moment that really counts, when our sun is completely covered by the moon, allowing its beautiful and ever-changing corona, or atmosphere, to become visible. There will be a total solar eclipse right here in this country on Aug. 21, 2017.

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks during the morning of Sunday, May 5. This is usually a much better meteor shower for the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere, where they will see about 60 meteors per hour. We can only expect about half that number up here.

Caused by the most famous of all comets -- Halley's -- tiny, sand grain-size pieces will crash into our upper atmosphere at about 40 miles per second, leaving brilliant streaks knifing through our peaceful, silent, and dark night sky.


May 2. Last quarter moon is at 7:14 a.m. EDT.

May 5. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks this morning.

May 9. New moon is at 8:28 p.m.

May 11. A waxing crescent moon floats near Jupiter this evening.

May 18. First quarter moon is at 12:35 a.m.

May 25. Full moon is at 12:25 a.m. This is also called the flower, milk or planting moon. On this day in 1961, JFK challenged the nation to place a man on the moon before 1970.

May 27. Jupiter and Venus will be just over 1 degree apart with Mercury right above them.

May 28. On this day in 1959, the first primates in space, the rhesus monkeys Able and Baker completed a sub-orbital flight.

May 29. On this day in 1919, Einstein's new theory of General Relativity was successfully tested during a total solar eclipse over Africa and South America.

Bernie Reim of Wells is co-director of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England.


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