Starry Night: Mid-May 2012 - End of the Eta Aquarids

Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2012 in Features

Starry Night: Mid-May 2012 - End of the Eta Aquarids

by Tristan Radtke

Although the peak of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower occurred in the beginning of the month, the Eta Aquariids are actually a fairly long-lived shower. The beginning of the shower occurs near the end of April, sometimes coinciding with the end of the Lyrids. This year, the peak of the Eta Aquariids was not a terribly excellent time to view the shower, as the beginning of May also played host to a full moon approach at perigee, producing a bright moon during the peak of the shower.

To watch for the tail end of the Eta Aquariid shower this year, the best time for viewing will be just before sunrise. Aquarius is low to the southeast from around midnight till after sunrise, so try to spot it at the horizon. With the earlier sunrise, the best time to spot a few meteors or perhaps even a fireball would be about 3:30 a.m.

**The Stars**

This is the time of year to spot the thirteenth zodiacal constellation.  One of the largest constellations is Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer, which is in the east in the evening. He clutches the serpent, another constellation, in both hands. A faint tent-shaped pattern of stars outlines Ophiuchus.

** The Planets **
• Mercury: Mercury begins mid-May rising at 4:45 a.m. By May 31, Mercury will be lost in the glare of the Sun, along with its neighbor Venus.

• Venus: On May 15, Venus will set at 10:15 p.m. On May 31, Venus is lost in the glare of the Sun.

• Mars: Mars sets at 2:15 a.m. on May 15, and by May 31 it will set around 1 a.m.

• Jupiter: Jupiter is lost in the glare of the sun on May 15. Jupiter is just beginning to reemerge to enter the month of June, but is still lost in the sunrise corona.

• Saturn: Saturn will set around 4:10 a.m. in the middle of May, and by month’s end will set at around 3 a.m.

• Uranus: Uranus rises at 3:15 a.m. on May 15, with conditions likely dark enough to spot it before sunrise.  By May 31, Uranus will rise at around 2:20 a.m.
• Neptune: On May 15, Neptune will rise at 2 a.m. By the end of May, Neptune will rise at around 1 a.m.

• Pluto: On May 15, Pluto will rise at 11 p.m. By the end of the month, Pluto will rise at 10 p.m.

** The Moon **
The Moon will reach new phase on May 20 and wax into the month of June, reaching first quarter on May 28.

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