A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth
Compiled by Steve Sawyer
Hi welcome to Mays whatsup. We have plenty to look at this month :- some more Meteors, an ocultation, conjunctions and the spring constellations.
So what’s on this month?
One of the highlights is the Aquarid meteor shower: The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is an annual event that will peak in early May. It is caused by debris from Halley’s Comet. We also have an oculatation of Jupiter by the moon which will make for a good photographic opportunity
Please feel free to send any images you may like including in next months whatsup to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can post them to the societies Facebook group for posting any images you wish to share Facebook group link : https://www.facebook.com/groups/yorkastro
|3rd||Moon near Spica|
|7th||Peak of Eta Aquarid shower|
|12th||Last Quarter Moon|
|13th||Moon near Saturn (am)|
|14th||Moon near Saturn (am)|
|17th||Moon near Jupiter (am)|
|22nd||Moon near Venus|
|23rd||Moon near Venus, Castor and Pollux|
|24th||Moon near Mars|
|26th||Moon near Regulus|
|27th||First quarter Moon|
|31st||Moon near Spica, Venus near Castor and Pollux|
looking South on the 15th at 22:00
Looking North on the 15th at 22:00
The two charts above show all DSOs of magnitude 6.0 or brighter. They are both taken from
SkyViewCafe.com and correct for the 15th of the month. For a clickable list of Messier objects with images, use the Wikipedia link.
Over the next few month it’s noctilucent cloud season I’ll try and post some forecasts here.
But the Nasa spacecraft that monitors noctilucent clouds is probably dead due to a battery issue! (NASA’s AIM Mission Ends Operational Support – The Sun Spot)
Noctilucent clouds are clouds that glow in the dark. They are also called night-shining clouds because they can only be seen at twilight, when the Sun is below the horizon but still illuminates the upper atmosphere.
Noctilucent clouds are usually seen in the summer months, between 50 and 70 degrees north or south of the equator. They are more common in the northern hemisphere, where they can appear from late May to mid-August. In the southern hemisphere, they can be seen from late November to mid-February.
Noctilucent clouds form at very high altitudes, about 80 km above the Earth’s surface, where the air is extremely cold and thin. They are made of tiny ice crystals that reflect the sunlight and create a stunning display of colors and shapes.
To see noctilucent clouds, you need a clear and dark sky, a good view of the northern or southern horizon, and a bit of luck. They usually appear about an hour or two after sunset or before sunrise, and last for about 15 to 30 minutes. They can be very faint or very bright, depending on the angle of the Sun and the amount of ice crystals.
Further info Noctilucent clouds – Met Office
A nice video
The sun has been pretty active during April with serveral geomagnetic storms and Aurora being seen at quite low latitudes. Although we’re now coming to the end of the Aurora season a large sunspot is currently Earth facing (AR3288), so keep an eye on the space weather sites for news.
There’s also a pretty good UK focused facebook group dedicated to spotting and photgraphing Aurora (20+) AUK – Aurora UK | Facebook (note it’s a private group so you have to ask to join)
Locally one of the best places to go is apparently Bempton cliffs as you can get a good Northerly view point. Or Whitby habour at the end of the pier is also a good location.
For more info on the sun and solar weather look here : –
And our own Metoffice have an excellent space weather forecast page here Space Weather – Met Office
The 5th full Moon of 2023 is the Flower Moon, other names are the Milk moon (Anglo Saxon), Hare Moon, Bright Moon and Grass Moon (Celtic and old English).
See the sky diary for this months lunar events
A full lunar calendar can be found here :-
Lost in the Suns glare this month.
Venus will be visible in the western sky after sunset throughout May. It will be the brightest object in the sky after the moon
Mars is in Gemini and Cancer, glows at magnitude +1.5 and sets around 1:30 am. It passes Castor and Pollux around May 10th and has a close encounter with the Moon on May 24th. Venus is much brighter than Mars and sets earlier.
A morning planet and not well placed for stargazing. But on the 17th there will be a lunar occultation of Jupiter. This is when the Moon passes in front of Jupiter, temporarily blocking it from view. This takes place during the daytime at 14:30. A note of caution please take care not to accidently view the sun without any optical protection!
A morning planet not well placed for viewing.
The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is an annual meteor shower that occurs from late April to mid-May. It is caused by the debris left behind by Halley’s Comet, which orbits the Sun once every 76 years. As Earth passes through the debris trail of the comet, the particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, creating bright streaks of light known as meteors.
The Eta Aquarids are so named because the meteors appear to originate from the constellation Aquarius, which is where the radiant point of the shower is located. The shower typically peaks around May 5th and 6th, and during this time, you can expect to see up to 30 meteors per hour under ideal conditions.
No easy to see comets this month, the ones listed below start at mag 11 and go to mag 13.
Deep Sky (DSO’s)
Some DSO’s for you to target this month. Photo’s please to our Facebook group!
I’m picking some of the sights in Coma Berenices this month. Coma Berenices is a constellation that contains the nearest rich galaxy cluster, the Coma Cluster, located 33 million light-years away. It also has a cluster of nearly 40 stars. The constellation is named after Queen Berenice II of Egypt who sacrificed her hair to Aphrodite for her husband’s safe return.
Coma Berenices contains several famous deep sky objects. Some of these include the Black Eye Galaxy (Messier 64), Messier 98, Messier 99, Messier 100, the globular cluster Messier 53, the Needle Galaxy (NGC 4565), and other galaxies in the Coma Cluster
Messier 64, also known as the Black Eye Galaxy, Evil Eye Galaxy, or Sleeping Beauty Galaxy, is a spiral galaxy located in the constellation Coma Berenices. It is about 17 million light-years away from Earth ¹. The galaxy is easily identified by a spectacular band of absorbing dust partially obscuring its bright nucleus . It has an apparent magnitude of 9.36 and measures about 54,000 light-years in diameter .
Messier 98 (M98) is an intermediate spiral galaxy located in the constellation Coma Berenices. It is a member of the Virgo Cluster and lies about 44.4 million light-years away from Earth. The galaxy has an apparent magnitude of 11.0 Messier 98 contains about a trillion stars as well as an abundance of neutral hydrogen gas and interstellar dust. Because of the high amounts of gas and dust, there are numerous star-forming regions in the galaxy, especially in its nucleus and arms.
NGC 4565, also known as the Needle Galaxy or Caldwell 38, is an edge-on spiral galaxy located about 30 to 50 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices . It lies close to the North Galactic Pole and has a visual magnitude of approximately 10 . The galaxy is known for it’s narrow profile.
ISS and other orbiting bits
There are quite a sightings for the ISS in May . Use the this NASA website for exact timings for York overpasses. York, England, United Kingdom | Sighting Opportunity | Spot The Station | NASA
and of course the sky at night magazine!