May 2023 Stargazing Guide
Greetings junior scientists, scientists and citizens of this great big weird, wild and wonderful world in which we live. As always I'm your humble science Communicator the great Orbax coming from the Department of Physics at the University of Guelph and I'd like to welcome you to our May 2023 Star Gazing Guide!
It's time for May! May was named for the Roman deity Maia whose name became synonymous with growth. Here in Ontario the trees are budding, the wildlife has returned and we've finally seen our last bit of snow... hopefully. This month we get another hour of daylight as sunrise goes from 6:14 a.m. on the 1st to 5:43 a.m. on the 31st. And sunset creeps back from 8:23 p.m. to 8:54 p.m. by the end of the month just in time for summer. But this means we're down to only nine hours of darkness a night so let's make the most of it Star Gazers! This month we spot the great diamond, eye up our nearest planetary neighbors and do our best to catch a faint meteor or two. All this and more if we just take some time... to look up.
It's time for some constellation spotting tricks! I've mentioned asterisms before. An asterism is an easily recognizable pattern of stars in the night sky. Like Orion's Belt, it can be a small part of one constellation or like what we're discussing today it can be a pattern made of stars from multiple constellations. The great Diamond, or the Damond of Virgo, appears in the southern sky throughout spring. Starting at the bottom of the Diamond look towards the South and then look up. The brightness star you will see is Spica which is part of the zodiacal constellation of Virgo and is the 15th brightest star you'll see in the night sky up. Up and to the left is Arcturus. Arcturus is the fourth brightest star in the night sky and is the brightest star in the constellation of Bootes the herdsmen. It actually might be easier for you to spot Arcturus than Spica. Arcturus is an orange giant and is 110 times more luminous than our sun. Directly across from Arcturus is Denebola in Leo which we talked about last month. Finally the last star in the great Diamond is Cor Caroli the brightest star in the constellation Canes Venatici which represents the hunting dogs of Bootes, Asterion and Chara. Cor Caroli is actually a binary star system, and with a small telescope you can see the two stars separated by a tiny distance. Now not only does this asterism help you find four different constellations but it also completely encloses a fifth Coma Berenecis. Good luck junior scientists.
Our planets are in a state of transition this month. The gas giants Jupiter and Saturn are visible only in early morning if at all.
Venus, which has been a gleaming beacon in our early night sky for the last few months, will be near the crescent moon on the 22nd and 23rd, very near to her brother Mars who will dim and continue to fade as the month goes on. Well worth the look to see our 3 closest celestial neighbours before midnight on those days.
Around 5 am in the Eastern sky on May 29th, just before sunrise, Mercury will be at its greatest elongation meaning it should be visible low in the morning sky below Jupiter and Saturn along the ecliptic.
The full Moon this month is on May 5th and is referred to as the Corn Planting Moon or the Flower moon by many European cultures.
The Mi'kmaw Moon for May is "Sqoljuiku's", the Frog Croaking Moon, named for the sound frogs make when they croak! Squoalch!
The Ojibwe of the Great Lakes call the May full moon Zaagibagaa-giizis or the budding moon or the leafing moon as Mother Earth's healing medicine can once again be found.
Throughout May you should be able to see meteors emanating from the constellation Aquarius notably from one of its brightest stars Eta Aquarii. The Eta Aquarii meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through remnants left of Haley's Comet. Particles of space dust that separated from the comet hundreds of years ago. At the peak of this meteor shower you should be able to see upwards of 30 meteors an hour. Unfortunately the peak is on May 5th and 6th this year coinciding with the full moon and making observation difficult due to how bright the night sky will be. Good luck junior scientists.
Hello junior scientists. How are you? Do you realize we’ve been on this journey together for 19 months now? Each and every month I let you know what to look at in the night sky but you know what? I never get to see what YOU’RE looking at! So send me a picture and let me know what you’re seeing when you take that look up. You can tag @GuelphPhysics on Instagram or Facebook or even better, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll share a few of your photos on next month’s guide! I’m so excited to see what you’re seeing, so get out your device and get ready to take some time… to look up.
See you next month junior scientists and don't forget to have a science-tastic day! Special thanks to Royal City Science's own planetary geochemist Dr. Glynis Perrett for her help preparing our stargazing guide and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.