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May 2024 Astronomy Events

May 2024 Astronomy Events

AstroTelescopium Team |

Get ready for a spectacular May 2024 under the stars. This month, the night sky is packed with must-see celestial events, perfect for both avid astronomers and casual stargazers.

The show starts on May 5th with the peak of the Eta Aquariids meteor shower, lighting up the pre-dawn sky with swift, dazzling meteors. Just a few days later, on May 9th, catch Mercury at its greatest western elongation, a rare opportunity to see this elusive planet in the morning sky.

On May 11th, the ancient globular cluster Messier 5 will be perfectly positioned for viewing, offering a deep dive into the cosmos. Don’t miss Asteroid 2 Pallas at opposition on May 17th, when it's at its brightest and most detailed.

The grand finale comes on May 23rd with the Full Flower Moon, named for May’s blooming flowers, which will cast a serene glow across the night sky.

Grab your binoculars or telescope, and make the most of these stellar nights. Whether you’re capturing these moments or simply soaking them in, May’s night sky is a treasure trove of wonders waiting to be explored.


5 Stellar Spectacles Lighting Up the Sky in May 2024

  • 5/5: Eta Aquariids meteor shower peak
  • 5/9: Mercury at greatest western elongation
  • 5/11: Messier 5 is well placed
  • 5/17: Asteroid 2 Pallas at opposition
  • 5/23: Full Flower Moon


Before diving in, let's clarify some astronomical terms:

Magnitude - Magnitude is the measure of a celestial object's brightness, with lower numbers indicating greater brightness. The naked eye can perceive objects as dim as roughly magnitude +6.0 without optical assistance.

Right Ascension (RA) - Right ascension is the celestial equivalent of geographic longitude, measured from the Sun's position during March Equinox at 00h00m00s (h=hours, m=minutes, s=seconds). This measurement increases eastward until completing a full circle at 24h00m00s.

Declination (DEC) - Declination is the celestial equivalent of geographic latitude, measured in degrees (°), minutes ('), and seconds ("). The celestial equator has a declination of 0°0'0", the north celestial pole is at +90°0'0", and the south celestial pole is at -90°0'0".

AU (astronomical unit) - This unit measures the average distance from the Earth to the Sun, about 93 million miles. It helps gauge distances within our solar system.

Angular Size - This describes how large a celestial object appears from Earth, measured in arcminutes (') and arcseconds ("). One arcminute is 1/60th of a degree, and one arcsecond is 1/60th of an arcminute.



May 2024: Captivating Astronomical Highlights for Your Calendar


May 5th: Witness the Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower in Its Dazzling Peak

Get ready for a night under the stars on May 5th, as the Eta Aquariids meteor shower reaches its stunning peak. This year, the show is expected to be particularly breathtaking. Stretching from April 15th to May 27th, this spectacular celestial event sprouts from the debris left behind by comet 1P/Halley. What makes the Eta Aquariids stand out are their fast-moving meteors, zipping across the sky, leaving behind trails that glow for a few seconds after the meteors themselves have disappeared.

You can usually catch between 10 to 30 meteors an hour if you're up just before dawn. These numbers are quite impressive for meteor showers, and this high level of activity sticks around for about a week surrounding the peak night. Though the Eta Aquariids might not be known for big, bright fireballs, their incredible speed—over 40 miles per second—creates dazzling streaks across the night sky.

This year, there's an exciting twist: the meteors might put on an even better performance thanks to Jupiter’s recent gravitational tugs on the comet’s debris. Plus, the viewing conditions will be almost perfect. With the waning crescent moon lighting up only 14% of the night, there’s minimal light pollution to interfere with your meteor watching.

Here are a few details for the astronomy buffs:

  • Radiant Point: Look towards the constellation Aquarius, specifically around right ascension 22h 30m, declination 1°S.
  • Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR): Expect around 50 meteors per hour.
  • Velocity: These meteors are swift, speeding through the atmosphere at about 40.7 miles per second.


May 9th: Catch Mercury in Its Best Light

Circle May 9th on your calendar. It's when Mercury makes its show-stopping appearance at its greatest western elongation. This celestial event is your ticket to catching Mercury at its most visible during its morning show from April through June 2024. With a maximum separation of 26 degrees west from the sun, Mercury will be perfectly positioned in the morning sky just before sunrise.

Given its usual closeness to the sun, Mercury often hides in the sun’s bright glare, making these moments of elongation crucial for those of us eager to spot it. These elongations pop up every three or four months, switching between the morning and evening skies. The term 'greatest elongation' refers to when Mercury is at its farthest point either east or west of the Sun. On the evening side, Mercury lingers in the sky just after sunset. But on the morning side, like on May 9th, it rises before the sun, gracing the predawn hours with its presence.

For those ready with their telescopes or cameras, here are the details for Mercury at the moment of peak visibility:

  • Right Ascension: 01h 30m 10s
  • Declination: 6°03'N
  • Constellation: Pisces
  • Magnitude: 0.4
  • Angular Size: 8.1"

And for comparison, here’s where the Sun will be:

  • Right Ascension: 03h 07m
  • Declination: 17°33'N
  • Magnitude: -26.7
  • Angular Size: 31'40"


May 11th: Marvel at the Majestic Messier 5 in Its Prime Viewing Time

On May 11th, the skies serve up a special treat for astronomy lovers—the stunning globular cluster Messier 5 (M5, NGC 5904) in the constellation Serpens Caput. This breathtaking cluster will be at its best, hitting the highest point in the sky around midnight local time.

Messier 5 is not just any star cluster; it's one of the oldest known in the cosmos, with an impressive age of about 13 billion years. It hosts over 100,000 stars, all tightly bound by gravity, making it one of the densest clusters visible from Earth. Situated at a declination of 2°04'N, M5 is visible across much of the world, from latitudes 72°N down to 67°S.

With a magnitude of 5.7, M5 isn't typically visible to the naked eye unless you're under exceptionally dark skies. But don’t worry, with a simple pair of binoculars or a small telescope, you can catch a glimpse of its densely packed core and the more loosely scattered stars around it, twinkling like a celestial jewel. Its rich history and significant scale make it a captivating subject for both experienced astronomers and those new to star gazing.

Here are the specifics if you're planning to observe or photograph this cosmic wonder:

  • Right Ascension: 15h 18m 30s
  • Declination: 2°04'N
  • Constellation: Serpens Caput
  • Magnitude: 5.7


May 17th: A Striking Opposition with Asteroid 2 Pallas

Keep an eye out for May 17th—a spectacular night awaits as Asteroid 2 Pallas reaches opposition, casting its best light in the constellation Hercules. For anyone keen on celestial events, Pallas promises a memorable view, perched high above the horizon most of the night.

Asteroid 2 Pallas, among the solar system's giants, dazzles astronomers as it aligns directly opposite the Sun. This alignment, known as opposition, is when Pallas makes its closest approach to Earth and is coupled with its perigee—the point where it's nearest to our planet. As the Sun dips below the horizon, Pallas takes center stage, climbing to its highest point around midnight. This timing is perfect as it’s when the Sun is at its lowest, allowing Pallas to shine its brightest against the dark sky.

On this enchanting night, Pallas will be just over 2 astronomical units (AU) away from Earth, glowing with a magnitude of 9.0. Despite its impressive brightness at this proximity, the asteroid’s small size and distance make it invisible to the naked eye. To catch this celestial gem, you’ll need binoculars or a telescope with at least a moderate aperture.

For those aiming to track or photograph this awe-inspiring sight, here are the essential coordinates:

  • Right Ascension: 16h 29m 10s
  • Declination: 25°50'N
  • Constellation: Hercules
  • Magnitude: 9.0


May 23rd: Revel Under the Radiance of the Full Flower Moon

Set aside some time on May 23rd to bask in the glow of the Full Flower Moon. As it rises at dusk and sets at dawn, this moon will light up the night, perfect for a leisurely evening under the stars.

Named the Flower Moon, this full moon captures the essence of May in North America—a time when flowers are in full bloom, painting the landscape with a riot of colors. It’s a beautiful reminder of nature’s rebirth and the beauty that comes with it.

The exact moment of the full moon is when it sits directly opposite the Sun, with Earth right in the middle. This alignment allows the moon to appear fully illuminated from our perspective. On May 23rd, the moon will find itself in the constellation Scorpius at a declination of 24°25'S, glowing at a distance of about 242,334 miles away.

For those planning to enjoy or capture this picturesque night, here are the moon’s details at full phase:

  • Right Ascension: 15h 58m 40s
  • Declination: 24°25'S
  • Constellation: Scorpius
  • Angular Size: 30'34"


    Elevate Your Stargazing Experience

    With the May night sky ready to dazzle, you're all set for some spectacular stargazing. The right gear can truly enhance these celestial spectacles, whether you're observing with the naked eye or through a telescope. Each event this month is an opportunity to delve deeper into the universe’s wonders.

    Interested in starting or upgrading your stargazing equipment? We've curated an excellent selection of top-notch binoculars, high-performance telescopes, and essential accessories from trusted brands, designed to maximize your viewing experience.

    Explore our range of telescopes and powerful astronomy binoculars. If you're unsure where to start, check out our blog for helpful guides like "Choosing the Perfect Telescope." With the right tools, you're ready to transform every stargazing moment into an unforgettable adventure.


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