The new moon occurs May 11, but you probably won’t be able to see the skinny young moon until May 13, when it nudges Mercury low on the western horizon just after dusk.
Just a little higher in the western sky, in the heart of the Gemini constellation, our red neighbor Mars appears dim at +1.6 magnitude, but the young, fattening moon appears to step toward Mars, which sets after midnight early in May.
The very early morning heavens feature the large, gaseous planets Saturn and Jupiter. The ringed Saturn scales the southeast heavens around 2:30 a.m., while Jupiter follows just after 3 a.m.
Saturn sits smack dab in the middle of the constellation Capricornus, at zero magnitude, bright enough in dark skies. Jupiter (on the edge of Aquarius) appears at -2.2 magnitude, quite bright, and by month’s end, becomes brighter at -2.4, according to the observatory.
This week, the old, skinny last-quarter moon scurries under Saturn on Monday, and then skitters under Jupiter on Tuesday and Wednesday. By the end of May, Saturn rises about 40 minutes after midnight, while Jupiter rises about 1:30 a.m.
The full moon occurs on May 26, and since the moon sits at perigee (closest to the Earth in the moon's own monthly orbit), it will earn the nickname "supermoon." Thus, due to proximity, it will be the largest full moon in 2021 and will probably produce large tides, according to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
The Eastern United States gets a lousy view of the total lunar eclipse early on the morning of May 26. The Earth is in between the sun and the moon, and the sun’s light casts our planet’s shadow across the moon, providing Earth’s residents a safe-for-viewing lunar eclipse.
Western states fare better for this lunar eclipse. The West Coast gets the best seats. For Washington, D.C., the penumbral phase begins at 4:47 a.m., according to astronomer Geoff Chester of the Naval Observatory. The partial lunar eclipse phase starts at 5:45 a.m., with the moon fully ensconced in the penumbral (outside) shadow, the moon gets darker.
For the Eastern states, this action is extremely low on the western horizon. Officially, for Washington, moonset is 5:50 a.m., around sunrise. “You’ll see a little bit of darkening when the moon is setting,” Chester said, if you have a clear view of the horizon. “You’ll see a little notch [of darkness] cut out of it, maybe, if you’re lucky . . . but it’s only a couple of degrees above the horizon.”
In Los Angeles, for example, catch the red-tinted moon, fully in the umbral shadow, as totality begins at 4:11 a.m. Pacific time, and ends at 4:25 a.m.
● May 7 — “Satellite Constellations and Astronomy,” an online lecture by Tony Tyson, professor of physics and astronomy, University of California at Davis, discussing satellite interference with astronomical observations and potential solutions to this problem. Hosted by PSW, pswscience.org. 8 p.m., with lecture live on YouTube: bit.ly/32ZWKeZ.
● May 8 — “Radio Astronomy Observes Earth’s Ionosphere,” an online talk by Joe Helmboldt, radio astronomer, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Hosted by the National Capital Astronomers. 7 p.m. For registration: capitalastronomers.org.
● May 12 — “The World in 2050 and Beyond,” an online lecture by Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, who will discuss his vision and outlook for humanity and science, from his forthcoming book, “On the Future.” Hosted by Carnegie Science. 3 p.m. For registration: carnegiescience.edu/events.
● May 26 — “Dragonfly: In Situ Exploration of Saturn’s Moon Titan,” an online lecture by planetary scientist Elizabeth Turtle of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Scheduled to launch later this decade, NASA’s Dragonfly mission will fly from place to place to explore Titan’s surface, geology and meteorology. 8 p.m. Hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. For registration: airandspace.si.edu, then go to “Visit” and “Events.”