What’s in Orlando’s night sky during May? Meteor shower, supermoon and lunar eclipse

Joe Mario Pedersen, Orlando Sentinel
·4 min read

The sky will be a stage of light and shadow over the city of Orlando throughout May.

Beginning this week, stargazers will be treated to the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower, and the tail end of the month concludes, fittingly, with the curtains-up action of a partial lunar eclipse on the same morning as the second supermoon of the year.

And in between those major events are rocket launches and rare celestial sights.

The following are events to look forward to throughout the month:

  • May 4 - 6: On Tuesday morning, the first big event of May’s night sky begins with the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. It’s known as one of the best meteor showers to catch due to the heavy bombardment of showers; averaging 30 meteors per hour in the northern hemisphere. The shower is produced by dust particles caused by the orbital path of Halley’s Comet. Specks of Halley will be zooming through the atmosphere at about 148,000 mph. The fastest meteors may even leave behind visible streaks or “trains” in the sky. The heaviest number of meteors should fall before dawn on Wednesday, according to Earthsky.org. Most of the shower will be hailing from around the portion of sky featuring constellation Aquarius. Viewers Should be able to see the shower in its glory from Tuesday to Thursday morning.

  • May 4 - SpaceX will be firing off another Falcon 9 rocket in its mission to deliver the 26th batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. The launch is scheduled to take place at 3:01 p.m. at launch complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

  • May 4: On Tuesday night, stargazers will be able to see a celestial triangle among the moon, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be positioned below Jupiter on the moon’s left.

  • May 7 - On Friday, those with a telescope will be treated to a bright visual image of the Virgo Cluster, which contains as many as 2,000 galaxies. The brightest among them is galaxy Messier 49.

  • May 11 - At the start of next week don’t strain your eyes looking for the moon. You won’t find it. Next Monday is the start of a new moon phase. The moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky.

  • May 17 - Stargazers trying to see Mercury won’t have a better chance than on this day as Mercury will be at its greatest eastern elongation. Mercury will reach an elongation of 22 degrees from the sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. It should be low in the western sky just after sunset.

  • May 17 - United Launch Alliance will be launching an Atlas 5 rocket, which will carry the U.S. Space Force’s fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite, or SBIRS GEO 5 used for missile early-warning detection. The rocket will take off from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

  • May 18 - Stargazers may find “X” marks a spot on the moon by pointing a telescope or binoculars just above the south pole to find the Lunar X feature. The moon will be going through its first quarter phase and will be illuminating the rims of craters Purbach, la Caille, and Blanchinus from a particular angle of sunlight forming a bright “X.” The Lunar X can be found on the terminator, or where sunlight meets shadow.

  • May 26 - Prepare for the budding of the Super Flower Moon. It’s a not Mario Bros powerup, but the moon may look bigger as it acquired a Mario mushroom. The moon will be fully illuminated while it is in its closest proximity to the Earth creating the illusion of a slightly bigger moon. In some cases supermoons are about 7% bigger and about 15% brighter than a typical full moon, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. This particular supermoon is forecast to be even bigger than April’s with the moon being 100 miles closer, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. May’s full moon is also known as the Flower Moon, due to the abundant blossoming of flowers seen in late spring, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. If lunatics are interested in seeing the moon at its brightest, they’re gonna have to stay up late. The moon will be at peak illumination at about 1:08 a.m., according to timeanddate.com.

  • Also on May 26 - Just stay up the whole night, because just a few hours later a partial Lunar Eclipse will occur at around 5:44 a.m. according to timeanddate.com. The supermoon will be partially blocked out as the Earth’s shadow, or umbra, is cast over it. The moon should darken, but Orlandoans won’t be treated to a total lunar eclipse taking place over Asia and western America.