• The Next Full Moon is the Flower Moon

    Hey everyone! I hope you enjoyed the lunar eclipse last month. For more on what we can look forward to this month, including a potential (pretty, not necessarily dangerous) meteor shower check out Gordon Johnston’s monthly primer on astronomical happenings. As always, thanks Gordon!
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    The next full Moon will be in one week, on Wednesday afternoon, May 14, 2014. The Moon will be “opposite” the Sun as seen from the Earth (i.e., 180 degrees from the Sun in Earth-based longitude) at 3:16 pm EDT. The Moon will appear full for about 3 days centered on this time, from Tuesday morning May 13th through Friday morning May 16th.

    As the second full Moon of Spring (according to the Farmer’s Almanac), the native tribes of what is now the northern and eastern U.S. named this the Flower Moon, as in most areas flowers are abundant this time of year. Other names include the Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon.

    This full Moon roughly corresponds to Vesak, also known as Buddha Purnima, a holiday (according to Wikipedia) “observed traditionally by Buddhists in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and the South East Asian countries of Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Sometimes informally called “Buddha’s Birthday”, it actually commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha.” The actual date of Vesak varies depending upon the lunar calendar in use in the particular country or region, but this year for most areas it falls on or near the day of this full Moon.

    As to other sky events between now and the full Moon after next:

    Around the time of the full Moon in mid-May, as evening twilight ends (around 9:20 pm EDT for the Washington, DC area), the bright stars of the local arm of our galaxy are lost in the glow of dusk, so there are fewer bright stars in the sky than we see in Winter. Four planets are visible, Mercury low in the west-southwest for a short period after sunset (at its greatest eastern elongation on Sunday, May 25, 2014), Jupiter in the west, Mars in the south, and Saturn rising in the southeast. Saturn will be at opposition, its closest and brightest for the year, on Saturday, May, 10, 2014. In the mornings, as morning twilight begins (at around 4:49 am EDT for the Washington, DC area), Venus as the Morning Star is low in the east.

    The Eta Aquariids meteor shower peaked on the night of May 5 to 6, 2014, but activity should be good for a few more evenings. This meteor shower, made up of dust from Halley’s comet that enters the Earth’s atmosphere at 66.9 km/sec (150 thousand miles per hour), is best seen from the Southern Hemisphere. From the northern hemisphere the best time to look is in the hour or so before morning twilight begins (between 4 and 5 am EDT for the Washington, DC area). Under good viewing conditions far from city lights, this shower should produce a meteor every 2 to 6 minutes (10 to 30 meteors per hour).

    On Wednesday evening, May 7, 2014, into Thursday morning, May 8, 2014, the bright star Regulus will appear about 7 degrees to the upper left of the waxing gibbous Moon. For the Washington, DC area, evening twilight will end Wednesday evening around 9:12 pm EDT and the Moon will set Thursday morning at 2:29 am EDT, followed by the setting of Regulus at 2:55 am EDT.

    On Thursday, May 8, 2014, at 7:30 am EDT, Near Earth Object 2014 HT178, between 13 and 29 meters (43 to 95 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 5.9 lunar distances, traveling at 14.5 kilometers per second (32.5 thousand miles per hour).

    On Friday, May 9, 2014, at 7:49 pm EDT, Near Earth Object 2014 JD, between 15 and 35 meters (49 to 115 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 7.7 lunar distances, traveling at 10.5 kilometers per second (23.4 thousand miles per hour).

    On Saturday, May 10, 2014, Saturn will be at opposition, appearing opposite the Sun as seen from Earth, effectively a “full Saturn.” Around this time Saturn will be at its closest and brightest for the year.

    On Saturday evening, May 10, 2014, into Sunday morning, May 11, 2014, the bright planet Mars will appear about 6 degrees to the left of the waxing gibbous Moon. For the Washington, DC area, evening twilight will end at about 9:15 pm EDT on Saturday evening, the Moon will be at its highest in the sky for the evening at 10:06 pm EDT, and the Moon will set Sunday morning at 4:01 am EDT, followed by Mars at about 4:22 am EDT.

    By the time evening twilight ends on Sunday evening, May 11, 2014 (at about 9:16 pm EDT for the Washington, DC area), the waxing gibbous Moon will appear between Mars and the bright star Spica, with Mars about 9 degrees to the upper right and Spica about 6 degrees to the lower left of the Moon. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will be at its highest for the night at 10:53 pm EDT and will set at 4:35 am EDT on Monday morning, with Spica setting about 5 minutes later. By Monday evening, May 12, 2014, the Moon will have appeared to have shifted to about 8 degrees to the left and a little below Spica.

    On Tuesday evening, May 13, 2014, into Wednesday morning, May 14, 2014, the nearly full Moon will appear near the bright planet Saturn. For the Washington, DC area, evening twilight on Tuesday will end at 7:19 pm EDT, the Moon and Saturn will be at their highest in the sky for the night at 12:35 am EDT on Wednesday morning, and they will still be in the sky when morning twilight begins around 4:50 am EDT.

    As mentioned above, the next full Moon will be on Wednesday afternoon, May 14, 2014. In the evening the bright planet Saturn will appear about 9 degrees to the upper right of the full Moon, and they will appear to drift apart as the night progresses.

    On Thursday, May 15, 2014, the bright star Antares will appear about 8 degrees to the right of the full Moon. For the Washington, DC area, moonrise will be at just about the same time as when evening twilight ends (about 9:20 pm EDT) and will be at its highest in the sky at 2:28 am the next morning.

    On Friday, May 16, 2014, sometime between 8 and 9:30 pm EDT, Near Earth Object 2014 JH15, between 39 and 87 meters (128 to 285 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 8 lunar distances, traveling at 13.2 kilometers per second (29.4 thousand miles per hour).

    Sometime between Thursday, May 15, and Monday, May 19, 2014, Near Earth Object 2010 JO33, between 27 and 59 meters (89 to 194 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 4 lunar distances, traveling at 8.2 kilometers per second (18.3 thousand miles per hour).

    On Wednesday, May 21, 2014, at 8:00 pm EDT, Near Earth Object 2011 JR13, between 320 and 710 meters (1/5 to 1/2 mile) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 19.7 lunar distances, traveling at 27.2 kilometers per second (60.8 thousand miles per hour).

    On Wednesday morning, May 21, 2014, the waning Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its last quarter at 8:59 am EDT.

    The early evenings between Wednesday, May 21, and Friday, May 23, 2014, will probably be the best time to look for Mercury for this apparition. Try looking just a little north of west-northwest, about 7 degrees above the horizon, just as evening twilight ends (around 9:27 pm EDT). Mercury will be at its greatest elongation or angular separation from the Sun on May 25, 2014, but the combination of effects means that for the Washington, DC area, at least, the best time to look is a little before the 25th.

    On Friday, May 23, 2014, at about 1:27 am EDT, Near Earth Object 2014 FA44, between 28 and 63 meters (92 to 207 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 14.6 lunar distances, traveling at 2.37 kilometers per second (5.3 thousand miles per hour).

    On Friday, May 23, 2014, at about noon EDT, Near Earth Object 2013 WF108, between 270 and 590 meters (1/5 to 1/3 mile) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 11.3 lunar distances, traveling at 18.4 kilometers per second (41.2 thousand miles per hour).

    On Saturday morning, May 24, 2014, we may or may be able to see a meteor shower for the first time, the Camelopardalids, and it may or may not be spectacular. The Earth will be crossing the orbit of a comet that was only discovered in 2004, but if the comet was active in the 1800′s then the Earth should be passing through a trail of dust that will cause meteors. Because no one knew about or observed the comet back then, we have no idea whether or how much dust there may be, so the meteor shower could be spectacular, a dud, or anywhere in between. Based on our knowledge of the orbit of this comet, the best time to look should be between 2 and 4 am EDT, but because this is a new shower, there could be surprises, such as outbursts before or after the predicted peak. The meteors will appear to radiate out from the faint constellation Camelopardalis (the giraffe), which will be low on the horizon almost due north. For more information see URL .

    On Sunday morning, May 25, 2014, the planet Venus as the Morning Star will appear about 3 degrees to the lower left of the thin crescent, waning Moon. You will need to look right around the time morning twilight begins (about 4:39 am EDT for the Washington, DC area), with a clear view of the eastern horizon, between 5 and 10 degrees above the horizon just a little north of due west.

    Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at 2:40 pm EDT, is the New Moon.

    On Friday evening, May 30, 2014, just as evening twilight ends (around 9:36 pm EDT for the Washington, DC area), you might be able to see the thin, crescent, waxing Moon to the west-northwest, about 4 degrees above the horizon. The planet Mercury will be about 8 degrees to the right and a little above the Moon.

    On Saturday evening, May 31, 2014, the thin, crescent, waxing Moon will appear about 12 degrees above the horizon, about halfway between west and west-northwest. The bright planet Jupiter will appear about 7 degrees above and a little to the right, and the bright star Procyon will appear about the same distance again above Jupiter, forming a line between star, planet, and Moon.

    On Tuesday evening, June 3, 2014, as evening twilight ends (around 9:40 pm EDT for the Washington, DC area), the waxing crescent Moon will appear in the west-southwest about 30 degrees above the horizon. The bright star Regulus will appear about 9 degrees to the upper left of the Moon.

    The next evening, Wednesday, June 4, 2014, by the time evening twilight ends (around 9:41 pm EDT for the Washington, DC area), the Moon will appear to have shifted to be to the left and a little below Regulus.

    On Thursday evening, June 5, 2014, the waxing Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its first quarter at 4:39 pm EDT.

    On Saturday evening, June 7, 2014, the bright planet Mars will appear about 3 degrees from the waxing gibbous Moon. For the Washington, DC area, when evening twilight ends around 9:43 pm EDT, the Moon and Mars will be about 45 degrees above the horizon in south-southwest. The Moon and Mars will set together at about 3:30 am EDT the next morning.

    Early Sunday morning, June 8, 2014, Near Earth Object 2014 HQ124, between 390 and 860 meters (1/4 to 1/2 mile) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 3.2 lunar distances, traveling at 14 kilometers per second (31.3 thousand miles per hour).

    On Sunday evening, June 8, 2014, the bright star Spica will appear about 3 degrees to the right and a little below the waxing gibbous Moon. For the Washington, DC area, when evening twilight ends at 9:43 pm EDT, the Moon and Spica will be in the south, about 40 degrees above the horizon. The Moon and Spica will set at about 3:07 am EDT the next morning.

    Early Monday morning, June 9, 2014, at 1:41 am EDT, Near Earth Object 154275 (2002 SR41), between 240 and 540 meters (1/6 and 1/3 mile) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 16.3 lunar distances, traveling at 16.6 kilometers per second (37.1 thousand miles per hour).

    On Monday evening, June 9, 2014, the bright planet Saturn will appear about 9 degrees to the left of the waxing gibbous Moon. The Moon will appear to drift closer to Saturn until it sets Tuesday morning (at about 3:35 am EDT for the Washington, DC area).

    Because the Earth is tilted on its axis and the Earth’s orbit around the Sun is slightly elliptical (that is, a little egg-shaped instead of a perfect circle) the length of the solar day varies with the seasons (our 24 hour day is based on the average length of a day). Although the day of the Summer Solstice is the day with the longest period of sunlight, the days with the earliest sunrises occur before the solstice, and the days with the latest sunrises are right around and after the solstice. For the Washington, DC area, rounded to the nearest minute, the earliest sunrises of the year are at 5:42 am EDT from Tuesday, June 10, 2014 to Tuesday, June 17, 2014. The latest sunsets are from June 20 to July 5, 2014.

    The next evening, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, the Moon will appear to have shifted so that Saturn is about 5 degrees to the upper right of the Moon, and they will appear to drift apart until the Moon sets Wednesday morning at (at 4:30 am EDT for the Washington, DC area).

    On Wednesday evening, June 10, 2014, Near Earth Object 2014 HS184, between 68 and 150 meters (223 to 492 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 18 lunar distances, traveling at 7.21 kilometers per second (16.1 thousand miles per hour).

    On Wednesday evening, June 11, 2014, into Thursday morning June 12, 2014, the nearly full Moon will appear about 8 degrees from the bright star Antares. For the Washington, DC area, when evening twilight ends at 9:45 pm EDT, Antares will be below and a little to the right of the Moon. By the time the Moon is at its highest in the sky for the night (at 12:12 am EDT on Thursday morning, June 12, 2014), Antares will be below and a little to the left of the Moon. By the time morning twilight begins (at 4:31 am EDT on Thursday morning), Antares will be below and to the left of the Moon.

    The full Moon after next will be on Thursday night/Friday morning, at 12 minutes after midnight EDT on Jun 13, 2014.