Welcome to the May night sky. This month, all the bright planets are only visible in the pre-dawn sky.
These planets are Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The brightest of these being brilliant white Venus and golden glowing Jupiter, seen very close to each other over in the east, just before sunrise, on the first day of the month.
We have three meteor showers this month starting with the phi-Bootids on May 1. Then we have the Alpha Scorpiids on the 3rd and, finally, the best of the lot is the Eta Aquarids on the nights of the 5th and the 6th. This shower is quite reliable, and the shooting stars involved can leave behind long luminous trails. This shower is notable for being dust left over from the famous Halley’s comet.
On the very early morning of the 16th, we have a total lunar eclipse but, as seen from Europe, the Moon will enter the shadow of the Earth at Moonset, so the full Moon will turn dark red low on the western horizon just before sunrise.
This month should see the long-awaited and much-delayed launch of the SpaceX super heavy booster carrying the Starship into orbit. The whole rocket assembly will have a maximum mass of approximately 5000 tons fully operational, and it will be capable of putting 100 tons into orbit. This will be the largest rocket ever launched and, for the first attempt, the booster will soft-land into the Gulf of Mexico about 20 miles from the launch site.
Then, the Starship top stage will continue into Earth orbit and the plan is to do one orbit and soft-land in the Pacific Ocean close to Hawaii. The entire exercise should take 90 minutes. If successful, this will be a giant-step forward in the progress of manned space flight.
This launch is very ambitious, not just for the untested main booster but also for the ability of the Starship to re-enter the Earth atmosphere using ceramic tiles like the space shuttle. All these systems must work perfectly as there is no margin for error. SpaceX will soft-land in the ocean for this first orbital attempt as to soft-land back at the launch site will be taking too many risks.
The Moon is at first quarter on the 9th, full on the 16th, last quarter on the 22nd and new on May 30.
Clive Jackson is the director of the Camera Obscura attraction (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.
281 322 527 | email@example.com www.torredetavira.com
To see the May Sky Map click on the pdf link below