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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Don’t Miss: Full Moon, a Comet, a Meteor Shower, and Other Celestial Events

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The next full moon is the Pink Moon, the Sprouting Grass, Egg, or Fish Moon; the Pesach, Passover, or Paschal Moon; the Hanuman Jayanti Festival Moon; and Bak Poya.

The next full moon will be on Saturday afternoon, April 16, 2022, appearing opposite the Sun in Earth-based longitude at 2:55 p.m. EDT. This will be on Sunday morning from the India Standard Time Zone eastward across the rest of Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Ocean to the International Date Line. The Moon will appear full for about three days centered on this time, from early Friday morning through early Monday morning, making this a full moon weekend.

One Moon, Many Names

In the 1930s the Maine Farmer’s Almanac began publishing Native American names for the Moon each month of the year. According to this almanac – as the full moon in April – this is the Pink Moon, named after the herb moss pink, also known as creeping phlox, moss phlox, or mountain phlox, a plant native to the eastern U.S. that is one of the earliest widespread flowers of spring. Other names for this Moon include the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Fish Moon, as this was when the shad swam upstream to spawn.

This is also the Pesach or Passover Moon. Pesach or Passover begins at sundown on Friday, April 15, and ends at nightfall on Saturday, April 23, 2022. The Seder feasts are on the first two evenings of Passover.

In the Christian ecclesiastical calendar, this is the Paschal Moon, from which the date of Easter is calculated. Paschal is the Latinized version of Pesach. Generally, the Christian holiday of Easter, also called Pascha, is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. However, there are differences between the times of these astronomical events and the calendars used by the Eastern and Western churches. This is one of the years where these differences matter. Western Christianity will be celebrating Easter on Sunday, April 17, 2022, the Sunday after this first full moon of spring. Eastern Christianity will celebrate Eastern Orthodox Easter a week later on Sunday, April 24.

For Hindus, this full moon corresponds with Hanuman Jayanti, the celebration of the birth of Lord Hanuman, celebrated in most areas on the full moon day of the Hindu lunar month of Chaitra.

For Buddhists, especially in Sri Lanka, this full moon is Bak Poya, commemorating when the Buddha visited Sri Lanka and settled a dispute between chiefs, avoiding a war.

The Moon and Calendars

In many traditional lunisolar calendars, the months change with the new moon and full moons fall in the middle of the lunar months. This full moon is in the middle of the third month of the Chinese calendar.

In the Islamic calendar, the months start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent moon shortly after the new moon. This full moon is near the middle of the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan is honored as the month in which the Quran was revealed. Observing this annual month of charitable acts, prayer, and fasting from dawn to sunset is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full moon. Enjoy the spring flowers, consider acts of charity, leave an extra seat at the table, and try to avoid starting any wars.

Summary of Celestial Events

Here’s a summary of other celestial events between now and the full moon after next (with specific times and angles based on the location of NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.):

As spring begins, the daily periods of sunlight continue to lengthen, having changed at their fastest around the spring equinox on March 20. On Saturday, April 16, 2022 (the day of the full moon), morning twilight will begin at 5:30 a.m. EDT, sunrise will be at 6:30 a.m., solar noon will be at 1:07:49 p.m. when the Sun will reach its maximum altitude of 61.42 degrees, sunset will be at 7:46 p.m., and evening twilight will end at 8:47 p.m. By Monday, May 16 (the day of the full moon after next), morning twilight will begin at 4:48 a.m., sunrise will be at 5:55 a.m., solar noon will be at 1:04:27 p.m. when the Sun will reach its maximum altitude of 70.33 degrees, sunset will be at 8:15 p.m., and evening twilight will end at 9:22 p.m.

Chance to See a Comet

There is a slight chance that Comet C/2021 O3 (PANSTARRS) will be visible in the evening sky in early May. Falling toward the Sun from the coldest reaches of the solar system, this comet is expected to make its first and last pass by the Sun – passing well within the orbit of Mercury – on April 21, 2022, after which it will speed on its way out of the solar system forever, passing closest to Earth on May 8. The last observations used to make this prediction are from early February, as this comet is now too close to the Sun to observe.

We don’t know if this comet will survive passing close to the Sun without breaking up (many similar comets have broken up under similar conditions). If it does survive, it is unclear how much gas and dust it will be giving off in early May. If it doesn’t break up and is giving off lots of gas or dust, then we might be able to see it (probably requiring a backyard telescope or binoculars). Most likely, we will not be able to see it at all, but pay attention to the news, as it may surprise us!

Brief Window to See a Meteor Shower

The Eta-Aquariids (031 ETA) will peak early on the morning of May 6, 2022. This meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Aquarius, as the meteors appear to radiate out from a point (called the radiant) in this constellation (for much the same reason that snowflakes appear to radiate out from one point when you are driving in a snowstorm). The higher in the sky the radiant is, the more meteors you should be able to see. Since the radiant for this meteor shower only rises a few hours before dawn, there will be a fairly short window to look for these meteors.

For the Washington, D.C.-area, the radiant will rise above the eastern horizon around 2:40 a.m. EDT, the predicted peak meteor rate for this year will be around 4 a.m., and the first hints of dawn will start interfering with seeing these meteors after about 4:30 a.m.

For locations farther north, the window for viewing these meteors shortens or vanishes altogether, as this shower is best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere. The International Meteor Organization’s 2022 Meteor Shower Calendar shows that the observed peak rates have been trending down in recent years, from 85 visible meteors per hour in 2008 to 45 visible meteors per hour last year, so it’s hard to predict what the peak rate will be this year. According to the IMO Calendar, in past years this shower has shown a fairly broad peak, with rates near 30 visible meteors per hour (under ideal conditions) for several mornings around the peak, so if you’re out in the early mornings around this date, you might catch a meteor or two. These meteors are caused by debris from Halley’s Comet entering our atmosphere at 148,000 miles per hour (66 kilometers per second).

Ideal conditions for viewing these meteors would be if the weather is clear with no clouds or high hazes, after moonset but before any sign of dawn interferes. Go to a place far from any light sources or urban light pollution, and find a clear view of a wide expanse of the sky. Be sure to give your eyes plenty of time to adapt to the dark. The rod cells in your eyes are more sensitive to low light levels but play little role in color vision. Your color-sensing cone cells are concentrated near the center of your view with more of the rod cells on the edge of your view. Since some meteors are faint, you will tend to see more meteors from the “corner of your eye” (which is why you need a view of a large part of the sky). Your color vision (cone cells) will adapt to darkness in about 10 minutes, but your more sensitive night vision rod cells will continue to improve for an hour or more (with most of the improvement in the first 35 to 45 minutes). The more sensitive your eyes are, the more chance you have of seeing meteors. Even a short exposure to light (from passing car headlights, etc.) will start the adaptation over again so no turning on a light or your cell phone to check what time it is!

Several other meteor showers will peak during this lunar cycle but are not well suited for viewing from our more urban Northern Hemisphere locations this year, so I’ve not put them in my detailed listing below. If you’re interested in these meteor showers, you can search by name or look up the International Meteor Organization’s 2022 Meteor Shower Calendar. Here are the names: The Lyrids (006 LYR) are expected to peak on the morning of April 22 when moonlight will interfere. The Pi-Puppids (137 PPU) will peak the next morning but are best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, have an uncertain peak rate, and also will have interference from moonlight. The Eta-Lyrids (145 ELY) will peak on the morning of May 10 but are only expected to produce about 3 meteors per hour.

Total Lunar Eclipse in May

With the full moon after next, we will have a total eclipse of the Moon, peaking early on Monday morning, May 16, 2022. The Moon will begin entering the partial shadow of Earth at 9:32 p.m. EDT on Sunday night, May 15, but the slight darkening of the Moon will not stand out until the Moon starts entering the full shadow of the Earth at 10:28 p.m. It will take until 11:29 p.m. for the full shadow of Earth to cover the Moon. The peak of the eclipse will be at 12:11 a.m. on Monday morning, May 16. The Moon will begin emerging from the full shadow of the Earth at 12:54 a.m. and finish emerging from the full shadow at 1:55 a.m. The Moon will finish exiting the partial shadow at 2:51 a.m., but the subtle shading from this last part of the eclipse will be difficult to notice.

Evening Sky Highlights

On the evening of Saturday, April 16, 2022 – the day of the full moon – as evening twilight ends at 8:47 p.m. EDT, the full moon will appear about 9 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon with the bright star Spica about 9 degrees to the upper right of the Moon. The bright planet Mercury will appear only 2 degrees above the west-northwestern horizon. The bright stars of the local arm of our home galaxy will appear spread along the west-southwestern horizon. Sirius, the brightest of the stars in our night sky, will appear 24 degrees above the southwestern horizon. The bright star appearing nearest overhead will be Pollux (the brighter of the twin stars in the constellation Gemini) at 68 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon. Pollux is an orange-tinted star about 34 lightyears from Earth. It is not quite twice the mass of our Sun but about 9 times the diameter and 33 times the brightness.

As the lunar cycle progresses the background of stars will appear to shift westward each evening, although it is actually the Earth that is moving around the Sun toward the East. The planet Mercury will appear to shift in the opposite direction, appearing higher above the west-northwestern horizon each evening until April 28, after which it will start shifting toward the horizon. May 11 will be the last evening that Mercury will appear above the horizon as evening twilight ends, although Mercury may remain visible in the glow of dusk before evening twilight ends until around the evening of the full moon after next. The waxing moon will appear to the upper left of Mercury on May 2 (with the bright star Aldebaran about 7 degrees to the left of the Moon), to the lower left of the bright star Pollux on May 6, above the bright star Regulus on May 9, and to the upper left of the bright star Spica on May 13.

By the evening of Monday, May 16, 2022 – the day of the full moon after next – as evening twilight ends at 8:47 p.m. EDT – the full moon will just be rising above the east-southeastern horizon, and the bright star Antares will rise to the lower right of the Moon about 10 minutes later. The constellation Ursa Major, also known as the Great Bear or the Big Dipper, will appear nearly overhead in the northern sky. No particularly bright star will appear near to directly overhead, the highest being Regulus at 54 degrees above the southwestern horizon, with Arcturus a close second at 53 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon.

Morning Sky Highlights

On the morning of Saturday, April 16, 2022 (the day of the full moon), as morning twilight begins at 5:30 a.m. EDT, four of the five visible planets will appear in a line above the east-southeastern horizon, with Saturn to the upper right at 15 degrees above the southeastern horizon, Mars at 12 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon, Venus at 8 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon, and Jupiter to the lower left at 2 degrees above the eastern horizon. The full moon will appear 11 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon with the bright star Spica to the lower left of the Moon. The bright star appearing closest to overhead will be Vega at 83 degrees above the eastern horizon. Vega is the 5th brightest star in our night sky and the brightest of the three stars in the Summer Triangle. Vega is about twice as massive as our Sun, 40 times brighter, and about 25 light-years from us.

As the lunar cycle progresses, the background of stars along with Jupiter and Saturn will appear to shift westward each morning, while Venus and Mars will appear to shift the opposite way. The waning gibbous moon will appear near the bright star Antares on the morning of April 19, 2022. The Moon will join the lineup of planets in the morning sky on April 23, and will shift along this line, appearing near the planet Saturn on April 25, Mars on April 26, and Venus and Jupiter on April 27. The two brightest of the planets, Venus and Jupiter, will appear only half a degree apart on the mornings of April 30 and May 1, visible about 7 degrees above the eastern horizon as morning twilight begins. May 1 and 2 will be the mornings when the bright star Vega will appear almost exactly overhead as morning twilight begins (for the Washington, D.C. area and similar latitudes). As mentioned above, the Eta-Aquariids (031 ETA) will peak early on the morning of May 6, with the radiant for this meteor shower rising around 2:40 a.m. and the first hints of dawn interfering sometime after 4:30 a.m.

By the morning of Monday, May 16, 2022 (the day of the full moon after next), as morning twilight begins at 4:48 a.m. EDT, four visible planets will appear in a line above the east-southeastern horizon, with Saturn to the upper right at 26 degrees above the southeastern horizon, Mars at 16 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon, Jupiter at 13 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon, and Venus to the lower left at 6 degrees above the eastern horizon. The full moon will appear 12 degrees above the southwestern horizon. The “Summer Triangle” will appear directly overhead, with the bright star Vega appearing closest to overhead at 83 degrees above the western horizon.

Detailed Daily Guide

Here is a more detailed, day-by-day listing of celestial events between now and the full moon after next. The times and angles I give are based on the location of NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and some of these details may differ for your location.

April 12

Beginning the morning of Tuesday, April 12, 2022, the planet Jupiter will join Venus, Saturn, and Mars above the eastern horizon as morning twilight begins, giving us a view of four of the five visible planets!

April 13

On Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning, April 12 to 13, 2022, the bright star Regulus will appear to the right of the waxing gibbous moon. They will appear about 8 degrees apart as evening twilight ends Tuesday at 8:42 p.m. EDT, the Moon will reach its highest in the sky for the night less than 2 hours later at 10:24 p.m., and the Moon will set Wednesday morning (at 5:17 AM) about 10 minutes before morning twilight begins.

April 14

Beginning Thursday evening, April 14, 2022, Mercury will begin appearing above the west-northwestern horizon as evening twilight ends.

April 15-16

On Friday evening into Saturday morning, April 15 to 16, 2022, the bright star Spica will appear below the full moon. They will appear about 9 degrees apart as evening twilight ends and will shift closer together as the night progresses.

April 16: The Next Full Moon

As mentioned above, the next full moon will be Saturday afternoon, April 16, 2022, at 2:55 p.m. EDT. The Moon will appear full for about three days centered on this time, from early Friday morning through early Monday morning, making this a full moon weekend.

April 19

Tuesday morning, April 19, 2022, the bright star Antares will appear below the waning gibbous moon. As Antares rises above the southeastern horizon (Monday night at 11:25 p.m. EDT) it will be about 10 degrees below the Moon. Antares will be about 8 degrees to the lower left of the Moon as the Moon reaches its highest in the sky Tuesday morning at 3:22 a.m. Antares will be about 6 degrees to the left of the Moon as morning twilight begins at 5:25 a.m.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022, at 11:14 a.m. EDT, the Moon will be at perigee, its closest to the Earth for this orbit.

April 20

By Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, April 19 to 20, 2022, the waning gibbous Moon will have shifted to appear on the opposite side of the bright star Antares. As the Moon rises above the east-southeastern horizon (Tuesday at 11:39 p.m. EDT) Antares will appear about 8 degrees to the upper right of the Moon, and the pair will appear to separate as Tuesday night progresses into Wednesday morning.

April 23

Saturday morning, April 23, 2022, the waning half-moon will join the morning lineup of planets (Saturn, Mars, Venus, and Jupiter) along the southeastern horizon. The Moon will appear half-full, as it will reach its last quarter at 7:56 a.m. EDT. The Moon will shift along this line of planets on subsequent mornings.

April 25

On Monday morning, April 25, 2022, the planet Saturn will appear about 8 degrees to the upper right of the waning crescent moon, with the Moon about 11 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon as morning twilight begins at 5:15 a.m. EDT.

April 26

On Tuesday morning, April 26, 2022, the planet Mars will appear about 7 degrees to the upper right of the waning crescent Moon, with the Moon about 7 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon as morning twilight begins at 5:14 a.m. EDT.

April 27

On Wednesday morning, April 27, 2022, the bright planets Venus and Jupiter will form a triangle with the thin, waning crescent Moon. Venus will appear about 5 degrees above the Moon and Jupiter to the left about 4 degrees above the Moon. The Moon will rise last above the eastern horizon, rising at 4:58 a.m. EDT, only about 14 minutes before morning twilight begins. The Moon will be only about 2 degrees above the horizon as twilight begins at 5:12 a.m. EDT.

April 28

Thursday evening, April 28, 2022, will be the evening when the planet Mercury will appear highest above the west-northwestern horizon as evening twilight ends for this apparition.

April 29

Friday morning, April 29, 2022, will be when the planet Mercury reaches its greatest angular separation from the Sun as seen from the Earth for this apparition (called greatest elongation), appearing half-lit through a large enough telescope.

On Friday evening, April 29, 2022, the planet Mercury will appear less than 2 degrees to the left of the Pleiades star cluster above the west-northwestern horizon.

April 30

On the mornings of Saturday, April 30, and Sunday, May 1, 2022, the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will appear only half a degree apart, visible about 7 degrees above the eastern horizon as morning twilight begins. Two other planets, Mars and Saturn, will appear farther to the upper right of Venus and Jupiter. The close pairing of the two brightest planets is unusual and should be a worthwhile site to see!

Saturday afternoon, April 30, 2022, at 4:28 p.m. EDT, will be the new moon, when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and is usually not visible from the Earth. However, if you happen to be in the southeastern Pacific Ocean or the southern part of South America, you might be able to see the silhouette of the Moon as it blocks part of the Sun in a partial solar eclipse.

May 1

Sunday, May 1, 2022, will be May Day. We currently divide the year into four seasons based upon the solstices and equinoxes, with summer starting with the summer solstice in June. This approximates summer as the quarter of the year with the warmest temperatures. Much of pre-Christian northern Europe celebrated “cross-quarter days” halfway between the solstices and equinoxes, dividing the seasons on these days. Using this older definition, summer was the quarter of the year with the longest daily periods of daylight, starting on Beltane, traditionally celebrated on May 1 (the middle of our spring). Many of the European May Day traditions trace back to these earlier celebrations of the start of summer under the old calendar.

The day of or the day after the new moon marks the start of the new month for most lunisolar calendars. The fourth month of the Chinese calendar starts on Sunday, May 1, 2022 (at midnight in China’s time zone, which is 12 hours ahead of EDT). Sundown on Sunday, May 1, marks the start of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar.

In the Islamic calendar, the months traditionally start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon. Many Muslim communities now follow the Umm al-Qura Calendar of Saudi Arabia, which uses astronomical calculations to predict the start of the months. This calendar predicts the holy month of Ramadan will end and Shawwal will begin with sunset on Sunday evening, May 1, 2022. Because of the religious significance of the end of Ramadan, Shawwal is one of 4 months in the Islamic year where the start of the month is updated in the Umm al-Qura calendar based upon the actual sighting of the crescent Moon. Some of the other websites I’ve checked predict Shawwal will begin the evening of May 2. Starting with the sighting of the crescent Moon (whether on May 1 or May 2), the end of the Ramadan fast will be celebrated with Eid al-Fitr (the Feast of Breaking the Fast), lasting from one to three days.

The mornings of Sunday and Monday, May 1 and 2, 2022, will be the mornings when the bright star Vega will appear almost exactly overhead as morning twilight begins (for the Washington, D.C.-area and similar latitudes).

May 2

On Monday evening, May 2, 2022, the planet Mercury will appear about 5 degrees to the lower right of the thin, waxing crescent moon, with the bright star Aldebaran about 7 degrees to the left of the Moon.

Pay attention to the news in early May, in case the comet C/2021 O3 (PANSTARRS) survives its pass by the Sun and is giving off enough gas or dust to be visible as it passes by the Earth on its way out of the solar system.

May 5

Thursday morning, May 5, 2022, at 8:47 a.m. EDT, the Moon will be at apogee, its farthest from the Earth for this orbit.

May 6

As described in more detail earlier in this post, the Eta-Aquariids (031 ETA) meteor shower will peak early on the morning of Friday, May 6, 2022. For the Washington, D.C.-area, there will be a short window for viewing these meteors, as the radiant for this shower will rise around 2:40 a.m. EDT and the first hints of dawn will begin interfering sometime after 4:30 a.m.. The viewing for these meteors will be better for more southern latitudes (and worse for more northern latitudes).

On Friday evening, May 6, 2022, the bright star Pollux (the brighter of the twins in the constellation Gemini) will appear near the waxing crescent moon. The Moon will be about 47 degrees above the western horizon as evening twilight ends at 9:11 p.m. EDT with Pollux about 3 degrees to the upper right. The Moon will set first on the west-northwestern horizon Saturday morning at 1:38 a.m. with Pollux about 4 degrees to the right.

May 8

On Sunday evening, May 8, 2022, the waxing moon will appear half-full as it reaches its first quarter at 8:21 p.m. EDT.

May 9

Monday night into Tuesday morning, May 9 to 10, 2022, the bright star Regulus will appear below the waxing gibbous moon. The Moon will appear 63 degrees above the south-southwestern horizon as evening twilight ends at 9:14 p.m. EDT with Regulus about 5 degrees below the Moon. Regulus will set first on the west-northwestern horizon Tuesday morning at 2:47 a.m.

May 11

Wednesday evening, May 11, 2022, will be the last evening that Mercury will appear above the horizon as evening twilight ends, although Mercury may remain visible in the glow of dusk before evening twilight ends until around the evening of the full moon after next.

May 13-14

Friday evening into Saturday morning, May 13 to 14, 2022, the bright star Spica will appear to the lower right of the waxing gibbous moon. They will appear about 5 degrees apart as evening twilight ends, the Moon will reach its highest in the sky at 11:20 p.m., and Spica will set first on the west-southwestern horizon on Saturday morning about 20 minutes before morning twilight begins.

May 15-16: Full Moon and Total Lunar Eclipse

On Sunday night into Monday morning, May 15 to 16, 2022, we will have both a full moon and a total eclipse of the Moon, peaking early on Monday morning, May 16. The Moon will begin entering the partial shadow of the Earth at 9:32 PM EDT on Sunday night, May 15, but the slight darkening of the Moon will not stand out until the Moon starts entering the full shadow of the Earth at 10:28 PM. It will take until 11:29 PM for the full shadow to cover the Moon.

The peak of the eclipse will be at 12:11 AM on Monday morning, May 16. The Moon will begin emerging from the full shadow at 12:54 AM and finish emerging from the full shadow at 1:55 AM. The Moon will not finish exiting the partial shadow until 2:51 AM, but the subtle shading of this last part of the eclipse will be difficult to notice.?

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