The Buzz

In May, meteors will be streaking across the night sky and Mercury will be visible

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Now that the fervor of the total solar eclipse is behind us, most of the noteworthy upcoming celestial happenings will be happening in the dark of night.

In May, the first of these nighttime events worth staying up late — or getting up early — for is the eta Aquariids meteor shower. This meteor shower began April 15 and continues through May 27, but the night of May 4 into 5 is when it will be at its peak, according to the American Meteor Society. The peak this year will be aided by the fact that the moon will only be 14% full, allowing for darker skies.

This year the meteor shower is also expected to be stronger than usual because the meteors will be interacting with particles from Jupiter, the meteor society reports. The eta Aquariids is best viewed from the southern hemisphere, but it still generally produces between 10 and 30 meteors per hour here in the northern hemisphere.

The best time to view the meteor shower is in the predawn hours. The radiant — the point at which is appears the meteors originate from — is near the southeast horizon, in the constellation Aquarius, which is how the shower got its name, National Geographic reports.

One interesting note about the eta Aquariids is that the meteors associated with it are the residual dust particles from Earth's most well-known planet, Halley's comet, according to National Geographic. Halley's comet passes by Earth every 76 years. It last visited in 1986 and will next be visible in 2061.

A few days after the meteor shower's peak activity will be another noteworthy event for sky watchers. On May 9, Mercury will be at its greatest western elongation. The greatest elongation is when Mercury reaches its greatest distance from the sun, reports.

In the period before and after the elongation, Mercury can be seen in the sky in the early morning hours just before the sun rises. As the sky begins to get lighter, look in the direction of the sunrise.

In addition to Mercury, you will also be able to see Mars and Saturn. Mercury will be lowest in the sky, with Mars above and to the right and Saturn even farther above and to the right. The time of Mercury's greatest western elongation is the optimum viewing time, but you can continue to see Mercury in the predawn hours for a few weeks afterward. By the end of May it will no longer be visible.

The full moon for the month will be May 23, reaching its fullest point at 8:53 a.m. It will look full in the night sky the night before and the night of reaching its full point.

The May full moon is called the flower moon. Many Native groups used the term flower moon for the May full moon because it is the month when many wildflowers begin to bloom, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. Other seasonal names Native tribes have used for the May full moon include the planting moon, budding moon, frog moon and egg laying moon.

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