Babe Among the Stars: Mega Moon and Blackened Sun

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

The Mega Moon and a Blackened Sun

There is one meteor shower of note this month, unfortunately it coincides with the full moon which will drown out most, if not all, of the shooting stars. However, there is compensation for astronomers! This month's full moon will happen when it is at perigee, the closest it comes in its orbit to the Earth. When this occurs, the rising full moon is called a 'mega moon'. It will be spectacular; if you have an unobstructed view of the eastern horizon I strongly recommend you take the opportunity to witness the rising mega moon. You won't be disappointed! Here are just a few images of previous mega moons:

Solar eclipses are a lot rarer than meteor showers, but there's one each this month. Solar eclipses occur when the Sun, the Moon and the Earth line up precisely with each other (with the Moon in between the Earth and the Sun). It's the only time we get to see the normally-invisible new moon. At the moment, the Moon is farther away from Earth than would be required for a total eclipse of the Sun, so the body of the Moon will not cover the Sun's disc in its entirety. When the eclipse is at its maximum, the Moon will be about 90% of the size of the Sun from our vantage point; the Sun will look like it has got a huge hole through it. Warning: you will need special solar filters/eye protection if you wish to view the phenomenon yourself. The Moon will blot out the Sun except for a thin bright ring which is called the annulus, or more commonly, the 'ring of fire'. Such eclipses occur more frequently than enigmatic total solar eclipses, and get far less press coverage. This annular solar eclipse will begin over the Pacific Ocean on 20 May. It will be visible from China, Japan, the north Pacific, then parts of the United States of America. The Grand Canyon in Arizona is particularly well-favoured. Just before it's all over, anyone in Albuquerque in New Mexico will have a grandstand view. People either side of the central line will see a partial eclipse but it will still be a spectacular sight. Astronomers at the Very Large Array radio telescope facility will be on full alert! When sunset occurs over Texas, the annular solar eclipse will be over.

May Diary Dates

  • 03: Feast Day of Achakana
  • 04: The Moon passes 6° south of Saturn
  • 05: Full Moon: the Flower Moon
  • 05: Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks
  • 13: The Moon passes 6° north of Neptune
  • 16: The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus
  • 19: Asteroid Juno at opposition
  • 20: New Moon
  • 20: Annular solar eclipse
  • 22: The Moon passes 5° south of Venus
  • 29: The Moon passes 7° south of Mars

  • Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.

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