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Weather Blog: spring through summer astronomy calendar

From checking out the planets to an annular solar eclipse, it’s gonna be a busy few months
Weather Blog: Spring and Summer Astronomy Calendar
Weather Blog: Spring and Summer Astronomy Calendar(wrdw)
Published: May. 20, 2021 at 12:46 PM EDT|Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 1:05 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -With evening temperatures starting to warm, going outside to check out the night sky will be more and more comfortable as we continue through the rest of May and into the summer months. There’s a lot to see, from your nightly planets to eclipses that will partially be visible in our area.

MAY:

As we continue through this month we’ll have three evening planets visible: Mars, Mercury, and Venus. Mercury and Venus will be visible just after sunset near the horizon in the western sky. Mercury will be brightest at the beginning of the month before dimming by month’s end and dipping below the horizon by June. Mars will also be visible in the western sky remaining visible until about 11:30 before it sets below the horizon. In the early morning sky, you’ll be able to see Jupiter and Saturn before sunrise, through the summer these planets will rise earlier, eventually just after sunset.

Evening Visible Planets
Evening Visible Planets(wrdw)

On May 29th Mercury and Venus will form a conjunction and will be visible very close to one another just after sunset. The moon will not be visible that night allowing both planets to shine brighter and making viewing easier. It’s best to view this conjunction in a high location with clear visibility to the western horizon.

Just before the conjunction between Venus and Mercury, there will be a Total Lunar Eclipse on May 26th, and about half of the event will be visible in the CSRA. Starting that Wednesday morning around 4:50 am the Earth’s Penumbra will begin to cover the Moon. By 5:45 am the Earth’s Umbra will start to move across the moon causing it to reflect a red-like color. As the umbra moves across the surface of the Moon it’ll also be setting in the western sky with the maximum event happening at 6:22 am. It is best to view this at a higher location with a clear view of the horizon.

The eclipse will begin just before 5:00 am with the maximum eclipse occurring at 6:22 am as the...
The eclipse will begin just before 5:00 am with the maximum eclipse occurring at 6:22 am as the Moon sets. The full Eclipse will be just out of view for the CSRA.(wrdw)

JUNE:

Through the month of June Venus will be lasting longer in the night sky as it gets closer to Mars. During the early morning hours, you’ll have the opportunity to see Jupiter, Saturn, and even Neptune if you have a good telescope.

Parts of the country will be treated to an Annular Solar Eclipse on June 10th. We’ll be able to see a small portion of the eclipse but unfortunately, it won’t be like what we saw back in 2017. Only about 5% of the eclipse will be visible in the CSRA but if you have any plans to travel north you’ll be able to see more of the event.

The CSRA will see a small portion of the annular solar eclipse on June 10th at 6:20 am.
The CSRA will see a small portion of the annular solar eclipse on June 10th at 6:20 am.(wrdw)

Canada will have the best views, with a similar look to the image below of a previous annular solar eclipse. An annular eclipse displays a “ring of fire”, shown below, while a total solar eclipse covers the sun completely and only displays the Sun’s Corona, this is what we saw back in 2017.

The annular solar eclipse - when the moon covers the sun's center, leaving a "ring of fire"...
The annular solar eclipse - when the moon covers the sun's center, leaving a "ring of fire" visible against the night sky - was visible from parts of Indonesia, southern India, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

JULY & AUGUST:

As we continue through the summer Mercury will reach its greatest western elongation from the Sun on the morning of July 4th, which means it will be at its highest point in our sky and easiest to see.

Venus will also be visible during the summer through the fall and early winter months in the evening sky. The best time to see this planet will come on the evening of October 29th when it reaches its greatest eastern elongation. At this point it will be highest in the sky making it very easy to spot, it will also be in its crescent phase making it very interesting to see with a telescope.

Here's an image of Venus I was able to capture through my telescope last spring.
Here's an image of Venus I was able to capture through my telescope last spring.(Anthony Carpino)

Also visible in the July & August evening sky will be Mars. It’s best seen before August 22nd in the evening sky before it sinks closer to the horizon.

Jupiter and Saturn will rise in the late evening and set close to sunrise. On August 2nd Saturn will be in opposition to the Sun and Earth will find itself between the Sun and Saturn. It’s at this time that Saturn will be at its brightest and easiest to see in the sky.

Saturn At Opposition
Saturn At Opposition(NASA)

Both Jupiter and Saturn will rise in the eastern sky and set in the southwestern sky, just look up anytime after 9:30 PM and before 6:30 AM.

Also happening in August will be the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower on the night of August 12th into the morning of the 13th. At peak, the showers will produce nearly 60 meteors per hour and will be best visible in the northeastern sky past 11 pm as the constellation Perseus rises above the horizon.

Perseid Meteor Shower
Perseid Meteor Shower(wrdw)

Later on in the month, Jupiter will be in opposition on August 19th. The already bright planet will be at its brightest point of the year and will also be at its closest to Earth, making for fantastic viewing. A good pair of binoculars will be able to spot the 4 largest moons of Jupiter and a medium-sized telescope should be able to pick out the detail of the cloud bands on the planet.

There’s a lot to see over the next few months, if you happen to take any photos we’d love to see them, you can submit them here! Happy viewing!

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