Astronomy: When can I see the lunar eclipse in May 2022

Child girl observing stars, planets, Moon and night sky with astronomical telescope.

Eyes on the skies at 3am on May 16 for the lunar eclipse - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves into the Earth's shadow

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves into the Earth's shadow. This happens when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are exactly or very closely aligned with Earth between the other two, and only on the night of a full moon - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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.

Phases of full eclipse of the Moon

Phases of a full eclipse of the Moon - this only happens with a full Moon - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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).

Astronomy chart showing the star locations for May and June

May/June star chart - Credit: Alan Jefferis

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.  

Click here to find out where Bob's five top star gazing spots are in Dorset