May 2024 Astronautical Events Showcase Flower Moon, Saturn and Mars

May 23, 2024

May is a busy month for celestial events, capturing the imagination of stargazers around the world. With events happening both in the morning and night skies, and lasting from a single day to more than a month, there is ample opportunity to catch one of these amazing astronautical views. 

Here’s a look at some of the most notable astronautical events happening this month. 

Flower Moon 

On May 23, observers can view a Flower Moon. This name is given to the full moon that occurs in May, as it’s traditionally linked to this time of year when spring flowers are in full bloom in the Northern Hemisphere. The event holds special significance for many cultures, as it represents the natural reawakening and fertility of the Earth during this period. 

A full moon occurs approximately every 29.5 days when it orbits into a position directly opposite the Sun, with the Earth in between. This means that a Flower Moon happens once a year, typically in May, although the exact date can vary slightly each year due to the lunar cycle. 

The Flower Moon will be visible all night long, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise. It’s best observed with the naked eye or binoculars, which can give you a clear view without the need for a telescope.  

Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower 

The Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower is an annual event that is active from April 19 to May 28. Though the shower peaked May 5-6, it’s fast and bright meteors can still be seen for several more days during this month. With more than 50 meteors per hour at its peak, the event is one of the most prolific meteor showers in the universe.  

The shower can be observed from most locations around the world, but it is especially visible from the Southern Hemisphere or near the equator. Experts suggest that the best time to view the Eta Aquariids is in the pre-dawn hours when the radiant point in the constellation Aquarius is high in the sky. To view them, find a dark spot away from city lights with a clear view of the sky, and allow at least 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. No special equipment is needed. 

These meteors are significant because they originate from the debris left by Halley’s Comet, one of the most famous comets known to man. The Earth passes through Halley’s path twice a year, once in May, causing the Eta Aquariids, and once in October, resulting in the Orionid meteor shower.  

Other Notable Events 

On May 17, Jupiter and a crescent moon appeared close to each other in the sky and was observable from Earth. Visible before sunrise, the crescent moon shared the same right ascension, with the moon passing south of Jupiter. 

From May 22-24, the moon, Venus, and Mars will appear very close to each other in the sky due to their orbits aligning from our perspective on Earth. The planetary conjunction will be most visible in the western sky just after sunset. 

In late May, visibility of the Magellanic Clouds will be particularly clear, meaning these two distinct, cloudy patches can be seen in the night sky without special equipment. The Magellanic Clouds are two irregular dwarf galaxies that are approximately 160,000 light-years and 200,000 light-years away from Earth, making them among the closest galaxies to the Milky Way.  

And on May 31, a crescent moon will rise closely with Saturn and will be visible through binoculars. 

Skywatching Tips 

If you want to enjoy these events, here are a few tips to remember: 

  • Find a location with minimal light pollution, such as a remote countryside or a secluded beach. These locations offer darker skies, allowing you to fully appreciate each event’s uniqueness. 

  • Clear, cloudless skies and cooler nights, which don’t cause atmospheric turbulence, are best for stargazing. 

  • It can take up to 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the dark. Give your eyes time to adjust and avoid looking at bright lights during this time as it can reset your night vision. If you need to use a light, use a red one as it is less likely to interfere with your night vision. 

  • Use a star chart or app, which can help you identify constellations and planets. 

  • Stargazing is a game of patience! It can take time to spot certain celestial objects and events. 

Astronautical Engineering at Capitol Tech 

Capitol Technology University offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Aviation and Astronautical Sciences that prepare you to tackle the infinite expanse of our universe and unravel its cosmic mysteries. Our on-campus resources for astronautical engineering students include our ALPHA Observatory, Space Flight Operations Training Center, and Fusion Lab, providing the hands-on skills development needed for careers with top agencies such as NASA, U.S. Space Command, and more. For additional information, contact our Admissions team or register for a virtual info session