Every week, SkyNews publishes a list of key events in the Canadian sky in This Week’s Sky. This series gives you all the latest news in Solar System movements, including where the planets are in our sky and Moon phases. From eclipses to meteor showers, This Week’s Sky keeps you updated on the best in upcoming astronomical highlights.
Wednesday, May 11 – Major Mare Imbrium (evening)
On Wednesday, May 11, the lunar terminator will reach the western rim of Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Rains. That dark, circular feature dominates the northwestern quadrant of the Moon’s Earth-facing hemisphere. The mare is the Moon’s largest impact basin, measuring more than 715 miles (1145 km) in diameter. It was formed during the late heavy bombardment period approximately 3.94 billion years ago. Telescope views of Mare Imbrium at this phase will reveal ejecta blankets around its major craters (Aristillus and Archimedes), several nearly-submerged ghost craters (Cassini and Wallace), and numerous subtle wrinkle ridges (Heim, Sille).
Thursday, May 12 – Mare Imbrium mountains (evening)
Thursday, May 12 will offer a fine opportunity to view the spectacular, mountain chains, actually segments of the old basin rim, that encircle the rim of Mare Imbrium. The most northerly arc of mountains is the Lunar Alps, or Montes Alpes. Binoculars or a telescope will reveal a slash cutting through them called the Alpine Valley, or Vallis Alpes, where the Moon’s crust has dropped between parallel faults. To the lower right (lunar southeast) of the Alps are the Caucasus Mountains, or Montes Caucasus. That mountain range disappears under a lava-flooded zone connecting Mare Imbrium with Mare Serenitatis to the southeast. The southeastern edge of Mare Imbrium is bordered by the lengthy Apennine Mountains, or Montes Apenninus. They sink out of sight near the prominent crater Eratosthenes. The Montes Carpatus ring the south, near crater Copernicus. On the opposite side of the mare is the distinctive, round Sinus Iridum, the Bay of Rainbows.
Sunday, May 15 – Deep total lunar eclipse (03:29 to 04:53 UTC on May 16)
Starting in late evening on Sunday, May 15, a total lunar eclipse will be observable in eastern North America, Central America, and South America. For the rest of North America, Hawaii, and the eastern Pacific Ocean, the eclipse will be in progress as the Moon rises at dusk. Western Europe and Africa will see only the later stages before the Moon sets at dawn. This is a very deep and lengthy total eclipse. First contact with the umbra occurs at 10:28 p.m. EDT and 9:28 p.m. PDT (or 02:28 UTC on May 16). Totality will last from 11:29 p.m. EDT and 8:29 p.m. PDT (or 03:29 UTC on May 16) until 12:54 a.m. EDT and 9:54 p.m. PDT (or 04:54 UTC on May 16), for a total duration of 85 minutes. During the eclipse, watch for the upper (northern) limb to be darkest, and for the surrounding stars of Libra and brighter deep sky objects in Scorpius to return to view. Lunar eclipses are completely safe to observe unfiltered with your unaided eyes, binoculars, and telescopes.
Monday, May 16 – Full Milk Blood Moon (at 04:14 UTC)
The Moon will reach its full phase at 12:14 a.m. EDT (or 04:14 UTC) on Monday, May 16. May’s full Moon always shines in or near the stars of Libra or Scorpius. Every culture around the world has developed its own stories about the full Moon, and has assigned special names to each full Moon. The Indigenous Ojibwe groups of the Great Lakes region call the May full Moon Zaagibagaa-giizis “Budding Moon” or Namebine-giizis, the “Sucker Moon”. For them it signifies a time when Mother Earth again provides healing medicines. The Cree of North America call it Athikipisim, the “the Frog Moon” – the time when frogs become active in ponds and swamps. The Cherokee call it Ahnisguti, the “the Planting Moon”, when the fields are plowed and sown. In European cultures, the Moon is commonly called the Full Milk Moon, Full Flower Moon, or Full Corn Planting Moon. When fully illuminated, the Moon’s geology is enhanced — especially the contrast between the bright, ancient, cratered highlands and the darker, younger, smoother maria. The Moon will be in full eclipse, a so-called “blood moon,” when precisely full.
Chris Vaughan is a science writer, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you can follow him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He can also bring his Digital Starlab portable inflatable planetarium to your school or other daytime or evening event. Contact him through AstroGeo.ca to tour the Universe together.