Astronomy: When can I see the lunar eclipse in May 2022
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Stay up late to watch the lunar eclipse from 2.30am on May 16, then scan the night skies for the Summer Triangle and other glittering constellations. Bob Mizon of the Wessex Astronomical Society guides us through Dorset's starry highlights for May
Nights are now noticeably shorter, so go out and search for stars before darkness becomes a late-night activity. Bright planets are simply absent from the evening sky this month, as they appear to be not far from the Sun: early risers with very low eastern horizons might glimpse Saturn, Mars, Jupiter and Venus lined up along the dawn horizon before sunglow blots them out.
The Full Moon of May, traditionally known as the Dyad Moon, erases the stars in the relatively faint constellation of Libra on Monday May 16th, and as it falls to the south-west on that date, watch after 3am for the Earth’s shadow to move across it causing a lunar eclipse. The Moon will start to enter the Earth's shadow just after 2.30am BST, and the full eclipse will occur just before 4.30am. The entire eclipse lasts for more than five hours, ending at 7.50am.
May’s night skies offer many bright stars. In the south-west beneath orange Arcturus (37 light years), the brightest star in the northern half of the heavens, find the glittering blue-white gem of Spica, the ‘Ear of Corn’ 250 light years away in Virgo. To the east are the three prominent stars of the Summer Triangle: Vega (25 light years distant), Altair (16 light years) and Deneb (more than 1,500 light years).
Find a dark site away from light pollution to admire the silvery stream of the Milky Way, our home Galaxy seen from within as a faint band of misty light. Sweep with binoculars through Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Cygnus and Aquila to savour busy starfields.
Later in May, to the north, you may see silvery skeins of faint, pearly light: polar mesospheric or noctilucent clouds. These are illuminated from below by the invisible Sun, never far beneath the horizon at this time of the year.