2023, May 5: Flower Moon Eclipse, Bright Planets


May 5, 2023: The moon passes through Earth’s penumbra from the Eastern Hemisphere.  Brilliant Venus, Mars, and Saturn are easy to locate in the sky.

Photo Caption – 2022, January 3: Venus, Mercury, and the crescent moon.


by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Chicago, Illinois:  Sunrise, 5:42 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:53 p.m. CDT.  Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.  Times are calculated by the U.S. Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.

Summaries of Current Sky Events


Here is today’s planet forecast:

Morning Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, May 5: The bright moon is in the southwestern sky before daybreak, near the Scorpion’s claws.

The bright moon is in the southwest at an hour before sunrise.  The Flower Moon reaches the Full phase at 12:34 p.m. CDT.

This morning the lunar orb is 5.5° to the lower right of Zubenelgenubi – the Scorpion’s southern claw – that is today part of Libra.

The star, along with the northern claw, Zubeneschamali, are a little dimmer than the Big Dipper’s stars, so use your hand to block the moon’s bright light to see them.

Reddish Antares is about 30° to the moon’s upper left and about 15° above the south-southwest horizon.  Between Antares and the moon, Graffias and Dschubba, are part of the Scorpion.  Their sighting this morning suffers from bright moon light, as well.

Chart Caption – 2023, May 5: Saturn is in the east-southeast before sunup

Farther eastward, Saturn is low in the southeastern sky.  Look again fifteen minutes later, when the planet is a little higher in the sky, about 20° up.   The planet is not outstandingly bright like Venus or Jupiter, but about the same visual intensity as Antares.

Jupiter continues its slow emergence from the sun’s glare.  Rising nearly 40 minutes before the sun, the planet is awash in bright sunlight when it is high enough to be seen.

Similarly, Mercury, heading for an unfavorable sighting next month, rises less than fifteen minutes before the sun.

Near the time of the Full Moon phase, the moon passes into Earth’s penumbral shadow.  The eclipse is not as exciting as a total lunar eclipse.  It is visible across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, but not from the Americas.

Planets cast two round shadows into space from sunlight.  The center shadow is dark and the sun is not visible.  When the moon passes by at a Full phase, it can be partly eclipsed or sunlight is completely blocked.  When the moon slips through the outer shadow, the penumbra, the eclipse is not easily spotted.  The Observer’s Handbook states that this is usually not noticed until two-thirds of the moon is in the penumbra, and predicts this occurs around 16:40 UTC for this eclipse.

The eclipse begins at 15:13 UTC, 10:13 a.m. CDT in Chicago.  The moon is below the horizon at this time in the Americas.  The maximum eclipse occurs at 17:22 UTC and ends at 19:31 UTC.

For sky watchers where the eclipse is visible, no special equipment or precautions are needed.

The next lunar eclipse is a partial, occurring on October 28th.  It is visible mainly from the Eastern Hemisphere, while the Americas catch the end of the event.

Evening Sky

Chart Caption – 2023, May 5: Venus is in the western sky after sundown, above the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri.

Venus is “that bright star” in the western sky after sundown.  At forty-five minutes after the sun sets, the Evening Star is about 30° above the horizon.  It is above or east of the Bull’s horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri.  Look for it, 6.1° to the upper left of Elnath and 5.7° to the upper right of Zeta.

Venus is stepping toward the Gemini border, moving in front of those stars in two nights.

This evening the planet sets at 243 minutes after the sun, the last evening of its latest setting interval compared to sunset.  From today’s day, the planet sets earlier and appears lower in the sky at this time interval after sundown.

Through a telescope, Earth’s Twin planet shows an evening gibbous phase that is 64% illuminated.

It is noteworthy that this might be the last evening to see the Pleiades star cluster.  Look for it less than 10° above the west-northwest horizon.  A binocular might be necessary to see it. The star cluster passes behind the sun on May 21st and reappears in the morning sky during mid-June.

Chart Caption – 2023, May 5: Mars nears a conjunction with Pollux in the western sky after sundown.

Mars, marching eastward in front of Gemini and 5.3° to the lower left of Pollux, is over 20° to the upper left of Venus.  It passes Pollux in a wide conjunction in three nights.

Chart Caption – 2023, May 5: Two hours after sunset, the Flower Moon is in the southeast below Zubenelgenubi.

Farther eastward, the Flower Moon rises twenty minutes after sundown. Over an hour later, it is about 15° above the southeast horizon.  The orb is noticeably east of Zubenelgenubi, 6.0° to the lower left of the star.

The moon rises later each evening and appears in the morning sky before sunrise.  This provides an opportunity to see the dimmer stars in the evening sky, such as those in Gemini.



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