Night Skies For May and June 2003

Saturn and Jupiter are now very prominent in the evening sky with Jupiter almost overhead at sunset and Saturn high in the west setting a few hours after sunset. By the end of June Saturn will start to get lost in the glare of the evening twilight as it begins to move into the early morning sky again in late summer.

Mars is still a somewhat dimmer early morning object rising a few hours after midnight and almost overhead at sunrise. In June it enters the evenig sky rising just around midnight and getting brighter every night.

Venus is low in the morning sky, rising around twilight. It will eventually be low in the glare of the morning sun by the end of June, heading into the evening sky in mid-summer.

The Eta Aquarids meteor shower will be seen between May 5-6. Since the moon is almost new the skies might be dark enough to see several more streaks of light from meteors in the early morning sky on May 6th from this shower.

John Kagey of the ALLASTRONOMERSAREWELCOME club at Yahoo notes that on Early AM on May 7th there will be a rare transit of Mercury across the disk of the sun. It is not safe to look at this directly. You can view it around sunrise using a projection screen (sun screen) telescope or at a real-time imaging site such as SOHO.

There is a Total Eclipse of the Moon on Thurday evening May 15th in the U.S., which starts around sunset on the West coast or around 9 p.m. on the East Coast.

For Europe this will happen in the early morning on Friday May 16th in Europe at around 2 AM GMT (UT) lasting until sunrise.

This eclipse occurs late night or early morning in the dark sky, it is safe to watch, easy to see and visible through most of Europe, Greenland, North American, South America and Canada.

In this eclipse the Moon enters the shadow cast into space by the Earth and darkens. In some eclipses they moon may go totally dark or be a very dark gray. In other eclipses the moon may look a pale red or orange. This is caused by sunlight filtering through our atmosphere and you never know what you are going to get! Generally winter eclipses are darker and summer eclipses are ruddy orange. This once comes closer to summer.

Free Gifts w/ Telescope Purchase

This is a good camera event if you have a somewhat powerful zoom lens, tripod and can take short time exposure pictures. An effective focal length of 300 mm for 35mm works best, but you can easily use a 135mm telephoto or zoom lens. A film speed rating of 200 or 400 color print will work quite nicely. Leave the lens wide open (maximum aperature) and set your shutter speed around 1/30th for most of the eclipse. You will probably need 1/2 to 1 second exposures at totality.

Most digital cameras capable of shutter speeds from 1 second and faster should be able to handle the eclipse. Sharper pictures will come by using just the optical zoom and not the digital zoom. Set focus at infinity.

Digital movie cameras can also capture this event, as can web cams, but the web cam is best used affixed to a small telescope or binoculars (and this can also work for 35mm rangefinder cameras, digital still and movie cameras, but not 35mm SLRs as their lenses are generally too large and can be hurt by close proximity to the telescope lens).

Phase Date h m PDT Date h m EDT Date h m UT (GMT)
Moon enters shadow Thur May 15 7:02 p.m. Thur May 15 10:02 p.m. Fri May 16 2:02 a.m.
Moon enters totality Thur May 15 8:13 p.m. Thur May 15 11:13 p.m. Fri May 16 3:13 a.m.
Middle of eclipse Thur May 15 8:40 p.m. Thur May 15 11:40 p.m. Fri May 16 3:40 a.m.
Moon leaves totality Thur May 15 9:06 p.m. Fri May 16 12:06 a.m. Fri May 16 4:06 a.m.
Moon leaves shadow Thur May 15 10:17 p.m. Fri May 16 1:17 a.m. Fri May 16 5:17 a.m.

Times shown are for England, Pacific Coast Daylight Region and East Coast Daylight regions of the United States.


There is also an Annular Eclipse of the Sun in May on the 31st starting in late afternoon around 3:45 GMT (Universal Time) or English Time and ending around 4:30. Only the very northern areas of Europe and Canada will see this eclipse well. At totality a bright ring of light will be seen as the Moon is too far from the Earth to totally block the sun, thus this is not called a total eclipse but an annular (or one with a circular light ring).

Partial eclipses will be seen as low as the Middle East, upper Africa, all of Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, India, parts of China and the arctic and the upper most area of Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Iceland.

Virtually none of the eclipse will be seen in North America.

WARNING! You must never look directly at the sun except through approved, glass filters which cut down the rays and remove UV or via an indirect method of reflecting the sun on paper using a "sun scope" type method.


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