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Thursday, 23 May 2019  •  Wednesday, 18 Hawthorn Moon 2019 (night)

Watching the night sky in Hawthorn Moon 2019

5 May - 3 June 2019

Map of night sky at full moon: 18 May, 21:11 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Hawthorn Moon 2019

Mars is in the western evening sky, with the crescent moon nearby on 7 May; it passes into the constellation Gemini on 16 May. Right at the end of the month, as seen from the northern hemisphere, the planet Mercury may be visible, low down in the north-west after sunset, well below Mars, but substantially brighter than the red planet.

Jupiter rises in the late evening and shines very brightly for the rest of the night, as it approaches opposition early next month. On the evening of 20 May, the moon is just north of the giant planet. The fainter Saturn rises around midnight, and can easily be seen in the north of the constellation Sagittarius. On the night 22/23 May, the moon passes close to Saturn, and occults it in darkness as seen from the southern Indian Ocean and nearby parts of Antarctica. From Port-aux-Français in the Kerguelen Islands, the occultation lasts from 02:24 to 03:39 on 23 May (22 May, 21:24 to 22:39 UTC).

Venus is travelling towards the far side of the sun, but holds on in the morning sky for viewers south of about 50°N, low down in the ENE before dawn. On 18 May, it passes a degree or so south of Uranus. Look to see them together through binoculars. You may be able to see the very old moon near Venus on 2 June.

On the night 26/27 May, the minor planet Ceres comes closest to Earth, 262 million kilometres or 14.6 light minutes away; it sits in the great asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Look for it through binoculars on the borders of Ophiuchus and Scorpius.

Look out for the Eta Aquarid meteors on 6/7 May, especially after midnight.

The month ahead: Oak Moon 2019

4 June - 2 July 2019

Map of night sky at full moon: 17 June, 08:31 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Oak Moon 2019

At Dark Moon, on 2 July, there is a total eclipse of the sun visible from the South Pacific, Chile and Argentina, with a partial eclipse seen from southern and western parts of South America and from far southern parts of Central America. From French Polynesia, 53% of the sun is covered in Papeete at 07:59 local time (17:59 UTC), and 95.9% in Rikitea on Mangareva Island at 09:19 (18:19 UTC). There’s an even greater eclipse (96.7% of the sun covered) on Pitcairn Island at 10:28 (18:28 UTC). 74% is covered as seen from Easter Island at 13:22 (19:22 UTC). On the South American mainland, 92.2% is covered at Santiago de Chile at 16:38 (20:38 UTC), but there is a total eclipse at 16:40 (20:40 UTC) further north up the coast at La Serena. The total shadow crosses the Andes quickly and reaches San José de Jáchal and San Juan in Argentina at 17:42 (20:42 UTC), but you’ll need a good view to the west, as the sun is moving towards sunset. North of the total shadow is La Rioja, with 95.6% coverage at 17:44 (20:44 UTC), Córdoba with 97.9% at 17:45 (20:45 UTC), and Rosario, with 97.7% at 17:45 (20:45 UTC), but Río Cuarto has the total eclipse at 17:43 (20:43 UTC). The centre of Buenos Aires just misses the total eclipse, with 99.4% coverage at 17:45 (20:45 UTC), with the sun very near to setting, but southern suburbs and towns just to the south such as Cañuelas will see the total eclipse. At Mar del Plata, and at Montevideo in Uruguay, the sun sets before maximum eclipse. Asunción in Paraguay sees 68% of the sun covered at 16:52 (20:52 UTC), La Paz in Bolivia 54% at 16:49 (20:49 UTC), Lima in Peru 53% at 15:40 (20:40 UTC), Quito in Ecuador 18% at 15:36 (20:36 UTC), Bogotá in Colombia just 3% at 15:40 (20:40 UTC), San José in Costa Rica 1.1% at 14:22 (20:22 UTC) and Panamá 0.3% at 15:30 (20:30 UTC).

On 10 June, Jupiter is opposite the sun in the sky and shines very brightly all night. On 12 June it comes closest to the Earth: 640.9 million kilometres, or 35.6 light minutes away. On the night of 16/17 June, the nearly full moon passes close to the north of the giant planet. Saturn rises a couple of hours after Jupiter in the constellation Sagittarius. On the night of 18/19 June, the just past full moon passes south of the ringed planet.

On 15 June, the moon passes very close north of the minor planet Ceres, as seen from the Asia / Pacific side of Earth, occulting it over parts of NE Asia. From Beijing in China, the moon covers Ceres from 22:51 to 00:06 (14:51 to 16:06 UTC).

On 23 June, Mercury reaches 25°E of the sun in the western evening sky. The view from the northern hemisphere is good, where Mercury should be visible most of the month, low down in the north-west after sunset. Indeed, two planets can be seen in the evening twilight, for Mars is there too, fainter than Mercury. For the first part of the month, Mars is higher above the sunset than Mercury. On the evening of 4 June, it may *just* be possible to see the very new crescent moon to the south of Mercury, but you need a good view of the horizon. On the evening of 5 June, the thin crescent moon is south of Mars. On 10 June, Mercury passes just one minute of arc south of the star Epsilon Geminorum. Such is the closeness that they appear much closer from the South Pole of Earth, despite the great distance to Mercury (currently a bit further than the sun). On 18 June, Mercury passes very close to the north of the fainter Mars, and for the rest of the month is higher above the darkening horizon. By the end of the month, Mercury is hard to see from the north, but becomes easier from the south.

Venus becomes harder to see low down before dawn, even from southern lands, and more or less disappears into the twilight for everybody by the end of the month.

William Morris
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