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Starlight Messenger | What’s interesting in the sky in May 2023?

Starlight Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius, Starry Messenger) is the name of an important work by the great astronomer Galileo Galilei. He presents the first results obtained using the telescope he has just built. These are the mountains of the Moon, the Milky Way is made up of countless small stars or Jupiter has a few small points of light orbiting around it.

Inspired by this work, the HAS introduces the “Starlight Messenger” section to introduce readers to interesting astronomical phenomena, unmissable wonders this month, or quite simply celestial bodies that we always know. This May, let’s see what the universe has in store for starlight lovers like you…

1. Wait for astronomical phenomena

1.1. Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

May is the month of the Eta Aquarids meteor shower. This meteor shower runs every year from April 19 to May 28 and comes from the famous Comet Halley. In the Southern Hemisphere, this meteor shower can reach a frequency of up to 60 meteors per hour. In the Northern Hemisphere, this figure is only half that.

It’s a shame that the night of May 5 and early morning of May 6 this year – the time when the Eta Aquarids meteor shower reaches its peak – falls just on the night of the Full Moon. As a result, many meteor trails will certainly be mercilessly “buried” by moonlight.

Tonight, Vietnam welcomes the "peak" ofImage source: DKINGHAM PHOTOGRAPHY

2.2. Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Also on the night of May 5 and early morning of May 6, Vietnamese have the opportunity to observe the penumbral lunar eclipse phenomenon. Unlike a total or partial lunar eclipse, the Moon during a penumbral eclipse only darkens slightly, but does not turn red. So, to be honest, it’s not a very attractive astronomical phenomenon.

In Hanoi, this phenomenon begins at 10:14 p.m. (May 5), reaches its peak at 12:22 a.m. (May 6), and ends at 2:31 a.m. (May 6).

2. Meet the Moon

The May full moon will occur at 5:36 p.m. on May 5, UTC time (or 12:36 a.m. on May 6, Vietnam time). As mentioned above, this full moon phase will occur simultaneously with the penumbral lunar eclipse.

The May full moon was called by ancient Native Americans flower moon Because this is the time when spring flowers are in full bloom. Additionally, this full moon is also called The moon makes corn grow Or Milk MoonA.

The May new moon phase occurs two weeks later on May 19. This is not something interesting to observe because on this day the Moon will not appear in the sky at all. However, thanks to this, observing stars and deep celestial objects will be more convenient.


This May, let’s point our binoculars and telescopes towards Copernicus Crater – one of the most famous monuments on the Moon.

Copernicus Crater is located on the eastern side of the Ocean of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum). Photo source: Jatan Mehta

This crater, as you probably know, is named after the great Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, the man who initiated the theory of heliocentrism, thus opening a new page in the history of astronomy.

There is a funny story related to the naming of this crater. In the 17th century, Giovanni Riccioli named the crater Copernicus, but not because he was a fan of Copernicus. On the contrary, because he believed in geocentrism, he hated Copernicus very much. He therefore “threw the name of Copernicus into the ocean of storms” to clearly show his contempt.

He did not expect that today the Copernicus crater, with a diameter of 90 km, is considered the most beautiful crater on the Moon, earning it the nickname “the monarch of the Moon” .

3. Visit the family of planets

Venus is at the center in May. This planet will shine as an “evening star” in the west after sunset. On the afternoon of May 23, this planet will have an encounter (conjunction) with the Crescent Moon at the beginning of the month. The two celestial bodies will be about 2 degrees apart in the twilight sky.

Conjunction between Venus and the Crescent Moon. Source: Astronomy Magazine

Mars shines faintly, only around magnitudes +1.3 and +1.5. The planet will appear in the western evening sky, setting at midnight. In the first half of the month it will be in the constellation Gemini and the second half of the month will go to the constellation Cancer.

Saturn in May will rise at midnight in the morning in the East, in the constellation Aquarius. The closer the month approaches, the sooner it will grow. This planet can only be observed a few hours before sunrise.

Jupiter is at an unfavorable time for observation. This planet rises at dawn, so it moves most of the day with the bright Sun.

Mercury has always been a difficult planet to observe. On May 29, Mercury will reach its position of maximum western elongation. This means it will be easiest to observe early in the morning, in the east, just before sunrise. But despite this, finding this planet remains a challenge.

Shape of the planets observed from Earth in May 2023. To be able to recognize the shape of the planets, you need a suitable telescope. Photo: Sky at Night Magazine

4. Make friends with the constellations

May is the time of summer, the Sun sets later and later and the evening stars also appear later and later in the sky.

At dusk, traces of the winter sky – Orion, Canis Major, Gemini – gradually sank and disappeared on the western horizon.

At the same time, on the eastern horizon, famous spring constellations begin to rise, including the heroic Hercules holding a staff (Vu Tien constellation) or the man coiling around a python (Phu/Serpent constellation). Ophiuchus). Later, summer constellations such as Cygnus or Scorpio begin to rise above the horizon.

Learn more: 5 constellations to know in the spring sky

LEO (LEON): From the start of the evening, the famous zodiac constellation Leo (Leo) sat majestically above us. The lion’s head, made up of six stars called “The Sickle”, looks towards the western horizon.

VIRGO (VIRGO): Rising and setting just behind Leo is the constellation Virgo, shaped like a virgin holding a branch of rice in her hand. This constellation does not have a recognizable star pattern like Leo, but it does have the star Spica, the 16th brightest star in the night sky.

Open star cluster Coma. Photo: Alan Dyer

CORONA BERENICES: Bearing the name associated with Queen Berenice of ancient Egypt, the Hau Phat constellation is worth mentioning despite its modest size. Inside this constellation we can find the open star cluster Com (Coma Star Cluster; Melotte 111), reaching a brightness of +1.8 and containing about 40 faint stars. Additionally, this constellation also contains up to 8 Messier celestial bodies, a wonderful treasure for observers equipped with telescopes.

Find out which constellations are present in the Stellarium sky

Tham khảo: Sky at Night Magazine, Seasky, Constellation-guide, en.wikipedia vv

Compiled by: Earthgrazer



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