NASA returned with its monthly updates on visible treats in the night sky during May 2021.
Moon, Saturn, Jupiter’s triangle
First, early on Tuesday, May 4, you will be able to notice a large triangle formation consisting of the moon, Saturn and Jupiter.
With a clear sky and a body clock that keeps you awake in the small hours, you will be able to spot the formation in the east-southeast, while Saturn will first rise at 2:17 am Eastern time. The Moon and Jupiter will appear down to the left of Saturn at about the same time, at 3:01 and 3:02 in the morning, respectively, with Jupiter about 10 degrees farther to the left of the moon.
The rocks of the inner planet
The middle of the moon will provide an opportunity to see all four rocky planets of our solar system at once – and yes, Earth is one of them. To see the other three – Mercury, Venus and Mars – you will need to have an unobstructed view of the western horizon on or around May 14.
Look west about 30 minutes after sunset to find the best opportunity to see Mercury, Venus and Mars.
As Venus will appear low in the night sky, you will have to find a suitable place to ensure an unobstructed view. The shores of lakes or beaches should do the trick, such as opening up plains or an elevated position like a high mountain or a tall building.
From about May 14 to 17, the moon will join what NASA describes as this “beautiful planetary plateau”, so be sure not to take your eyes off it.
A total lunar eclipse
For a few hours on May 26, you will be able to enjoy the complete eclipse of the Moon when the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. This will cause the moon to darken and turn reddish. Due to this color change, the lunar eclipse is also known as the “bloody moon”.
“Red comes from sunlight that filters through the Earth’s atmosphere – a ring of light created by all the sunrises and sunsets that were happening around our planet at the time,” NASA explained on its website.
The Space Agency notes that, although you should never look directly at a solar eclipse to protect your eyesight, it is safe to look at a lunar eclipse because there is no direct sunlight in it.
The map below offers a rough idea of how well you will be able to see the lunar eclipse of May. Simply put, the further west you are from the US, the greater the eclipse you will be able to enjoy.
For more details on this and all the other benefits that the night sky has in store for you in May, check out NASA’s special website that offers all the information you need.
And if you’ve ever considered photographing the night sky, refer to this Digital Trends article, which offers some top tips.