May’s lunar eclipse, coupled with a rare meteor shower, could bring double pleasure
May has an uncommon skywatching bounty: the chance of two great celestial highlights occurring in the same month. The first, a total lunar eclipse, is a foregone conclusion, but the second, a possibly large meteor shower at the end of the month, is a wild card. Here’s everything you need to know to get ready for both of these skywatching possibilities. For observers along the Pacific coast of Oregon, the moon will become totally eclipsed near or just after moonrise, transforming the moon into a ruddy, ghostly orb.
This event is almost perfectly timed for most of the Americas; observers in the Eastern and Central time zones will be able to catch the entire eclipse, from start to finish, and many skywatchers farther west will still be able to catch the total phase of the eclipse. From Hawaii, moonrise nearly coincides with the end of totality; unfortunately for northern and western Alaska, the eclipse ends before moonrise. Totality will last quite a bit longer than average: one hour and 25 minutes. May 30-31: A brand-new meteor shower? At the end of May, there’s a chance we could be treated a brand-new meteor shower with the potential to be the best such display of 2022.
In the autumn of 1995, a small, dim comet known as 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, unexpectedly broke into several fragments. And maybe, just maybe, enough of those larger pieces of debris fell into faster orbits than the main comet, allowing it to pass through the intersection point before Earth does. In the best-case scenario, we could see a bevy of slow, bright meteors, glowing with a ruddy or orange tint, falling at the rate of scores or even many hundreds per hour.
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