Manitoba Skies – May 2022
May brings us a total lunar eclipse, as well as continuing planetary alignments in the morning sky. We’ll also have a last look at Mercury in the evening, and have a chance to spot pieces of the famous Comet Halley during the Eta Aquariid meteor shower.
The Sun is becoming quite active, although it’s not something most people can safely observe – you need expensive specialized filters to avoid permanent eye damage. You can follow the activity on sites like SpaceWeather.com, which provide safe views of sunspots and solar flares. Increasing solar activity also increases your chances of seeing aurora borealis or northern lights, so the page includes a forecast for those as well.
Mercury is visible in the evening sky for the first week or so of May, passing the Pleiades star cluster before sinking back down into the sunset. This is your best chance to see Mercury in the evening sky this year, so get out early.
Venus is visible low in the southeast in the dawn sky. It begins May very close to Jupiter, moving farther left as the month goes on. The thin crescent moon is nearby on the mornings of May 26th and 27th.
Mars is visible in the pre-dawn sky, rising in the east-southeast about 4:30 a.m. at the beginning of the month and a bit after 3 a.m. by month’s end. During the last week of May it passes Jupiter, being closest on the morning of May 29th. The waning crescent moon forms a nice grouping with Mars and Jupiter on the mornings of May 24th and 25th.
Jupiter peeks out from behind the sun into the predawn sky by midmonth, rising in the east about 45 minutes before sunrise. By month’s end it approaches Venus, with the two having a very close conjunction on the mornings of April 30th and May 1st.
Saturn is still low in the morning sky at dawn, near Mars. Saturn and Mars have a close approach on the morning of April 5th.
Uranus is low in the evening sky and unlikely to be easily spotted (which requires binoculars or a telescope even at the best of times). The moon passes in front of Uranus during the day on April 3rd, an event that is unlikely to be observable.
Neptune is appearing in the morning sky along with most of the other planets, but it is so faint that it is unlikely to be spotted in the bright sky despite having close passes with Jupiter (April 12th) and Venus (April 27th).
All times are given in Central Daylight Time (GMT-5), the local time for Manitoba. All sky views are created with Stellarium software (stellarium.org). A box in front of the date means there is an image of this event; click on the box for a full-sized view.
Sun 1 May 2022 (morning sky): April’s planetary alignments continue in the morning sky. Venus and Jupiter are close together in the east before sunrise; fainter Mars and Saturn are farther to the right (west) but higher in the sky. Spotting each planet is easy, as they are as bright as or brighter than the brightest stars; the challenge is to see all four at once, since the sky has already gotten quite bright by the time Jupiter and Venus rise.
Sun 1 May 2022 (evening sky): The planet Mercury is visible in the west-northwestern sky beginning about 30 minutes after sunset. It is between the Pleiades Star Cluster and the bright star Aldebaran, but both of these objects will likely only be visible in binoculars due to the bright twilight sky. You only have a half-hour or so to catch Mercury before it gets too low to be easily visible.
Mon 2 May 2022 (evening sky): The thin crescent moon joins Mercury in the evening sky.
Tue 3 May 2022 (evening sky): The crescent moon stands high above and to the left of mercury in the evening sky.
Wed 4 May 2022 (morning sky): The annual Eta Aquariid meteor shower is active in the hours before dawn, but is only really visible from a dark sky away from city lights. Expect to see 10-20 meteors per hour between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Thu 5 May 2022 (morning sky): The annual Eta Aquariid meteor shower is active in the hours before dawn, but is only really visible from a dark sky away from city lights. Expect to see 10-20 meteors per hour between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Tonight’s [email protected] show will feature International Astronomy Day, which occurs this coming weekend.
Fri 6 May 2022 (morning sky): The annual Eta Aquariid meteor shower is active in the hours before dawn, but is only really visible from a dark sky away from city lights. Expect to see 10-20 meteors per hour between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Fri 6 May 2022 (evening): The Manitoba Museum’s Planetarium will be participating in First Fridays starting in May. There will be free access to the Museum Galleries and Science Gallery, and a come-and-go Q&A session in the Planetarium from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. CDT. Come and meet Scott Young, the host of the Planetarium’s weekly “[email protected]” astronomy show. Weather permitting, there will be telescopes set up around the Planetarium Dome to view the crescent Moon, hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Winnipeg Centre.
Sat 7 May 2022 (evening sky): Probably your last chance to catch Mercury in the evening sky before it disappears. Saturday is also International Astronomy Day, and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Winnipeg Centre will be hosting activities during the day and into this evening. (More details when they become available.)
Sun 8 May 2022: First Quarter Moon occurs at 7:21 p.m. CDT.
Sun 15 May 2022 (evening sky) through Mon 16 May 2022 (morning sky): Tonight Manitobans are treated to a total lunar eclipse, as the Full Moon moves into the shadow of the Earth. The event begins for Manitobans at moonrise, with the moon already in the fainter outer shadow of the Earth (the penumbra). The partial phase of the eclipse begins about 9:30 p.m. CDT, when the moon begins to enter the darker umbral shadow of the earth. Over the next hour, you’ll be able to see the Moon’s left edge become progressively more obscured by the Earth’s shadow. The Earth’s shadow isn’t fully dark, but often a reddish-orange of copper colour, making lunar eclipses a colorful event. Total Eclipse begins about 10:30 p.m. CDT, when the Moon is fully inside the earth’s shadow, with mid-eclipse occurring at Full Moon, 11:14 p.m. CDT. The eclipse’s total phase ends a bit before midnight, and the moon’s edge leaves the umbral shadow. Another partial phase follows until nearly 1:00 a.m. CDT on the 16th, and the Moon is completely clear of the faint penumbral shadow by about 1:30 a.m.
Detailed times will be posted closer to the event. [email protected] will be live-streaming the eclipse on Facebook and YouTube, weather permitting.
Sat 21 May 2022 (morning sky): The Nearly Last Quarter moon is below and to the right of Saturn this morning. They rise in the east about 2:30 a.m. CDT, and by dawn are 15-20 degrees above the southeastern horizon. (See image.)
Mon 30 May 2022: New Moon occurs at 6:30 a.m. CDT.
Tue 31 May 2022 (evening sky): Your chance to spot a very thin crescent moon in the evening sky.
To find out when the International Space Station passes over your location, visit Heavens Above and enter your location.