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Mercury’s partial illumination highlights what’s up in the sky this week

Updated: May. 9, 2021 at 10:34 PM EDT
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(WHSV) - The Wallops Island rocket launch has been postponed to this week. The moon was pass by several planets throughout the week and Mercury will become more visible this week up in the sky.

Adding Daylight

Over the next week, we will gain 13 minutes of daylight. Sunrise will move from 6:09 am to 6:03 am while sunset moves from 8:14 pm to 8:21 pm.

ISS Viewing (Most Viewable)

Date and TimeTime VisibleMaximum Height (Degrees above the horizon)Direction it AppearsDirection it Disappears
Sunday May 16th, 9:26 pm7 min66°above WSWabove NE
Friday May 14th, 4:42 am7 min50°above NWabove ESE

Moon Phases & Next Full Moon:

Moon PhaseDate and Time
New MoonMay 11th, 2:59 pm
First Quarter MoonMay 19th, 3:12 pm
Full MoonMay 26th, 7:13 am
Third Quarter MoonJune 2nd, 3:24 am

The next new moon on May 11th will be a micro new moon. This means the moon will be the farthest away from Earth in the moon’s regular orbit.

The next full moon will be May 26th and is known as the Flower Moon. This will be the third consecutive super moon of 2021, and the closest a full moon will be to Earth this year making it the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. It is known as the Flower Moon because of all the flowers blooming. There are several other names for May’s full moon. It can be referred to as the Budding Moon, the Leaf Budding Moon, Planting Moon, Egg Laying Moon, Frog Moon, or the Moon of the Shedding Ponies.

Other Interesting Events:

The rocket launch on Wallops Island is now schedule for Monday night no earlier than 8:04 pm. If weather conditions are not suitable for launch, backup days are scheduled through May 16th. The rocket that will be used for the mission will release barium vapor that will form two green-violet clouds that may be visible for up to 30 seconds from our viewing area. Areas east of the Mississippi River will be able to view the launch. The farther west you travel, the longer the light show expected. Vapor from this rocket will be released approximately 9 minutes and 30 seconds to around 10 minutes after launch at over 200 miles of altitude over the Atlantic Ocean. Once the vapor releases, clouds of green and violet color may be visible for about 30 seconds. Unfortunately, this will be harder to view than previous rocket launches due to violet color. You can find live coverage of the launch on the Wallops IBM video site beginning at 7:40 pm on launch day. Launch status updates can be found on the Wallops Facebook and Twitter sites.

Wednesday May 12th, the new, very young crescent moon will be positioned just to the lower left of Venus. Once the sky darkens Wednesday night, Venus will be easier to find first. You’ll able to see this very low in the west-northwestern sky.

Just after sunset Wednesday, the moon will be positioned to the lower left of Venus.
Just after sunset Wednesday, the moon will be positioned to the lower left of Venus.(Stellarium)

Thursday May 13th, the moon can be viewed near another planet, Mercury. The moon will sit several finger widths to the left of Mercury in the west-northwestern sky. You’ll have to view the duo between darkness and 10 pm. Venus will shine brightly below.

Thursday just after sunset, the moon will be positioned just to the left of Mercury.
Thursday just after sunset, the moon will be positioned just to the left of Mercury.(Stellarium)

Saturday May 15th, the moon will be on the move again, located near Mars. This will be in the western sky after dusk. The moon will shine several finger widths to the lower right of Mars. The moon’s motion will carry it closer to Mars by the time they set together shortly before midnight.

Just after sunset Saturday, the moon will be to the lower right of Mars.
Just after sunset Saturday, the moon will be to the lower right of Mars.(Stellarium)

Sunday May 16th, the moon will occult the medium-bright star Kappa Geminorum. The dark portion of the moon will cover it first which will cause it’s point to wink out. The star will then reappear from behind the eastern limb of the moon sometime later. This will happen at some point during the evening.

The moon will pass by a medium-bright star, Kappa Geminorum Sunday.
The moon will pass by a medium-bright star, Kappa Geminorum Sunday.(Stellarium)

Last but not least, also on Sunday May 16th, Mercury will be hours from its widest separation from the sun. It will be in the west-northwestern sky. Viewed in a telescope, you will be able to see a waning, half-illuminated phase of Mercury. Optimal viewing hours will be around 8:30 to 9:30 pm.

Mercury will be partially illuminated with the best time viewing between 8:30 and 9:30 pm with...
Mercury will be partially illuminated with the best time viewing between 8:30 and 9:30 pm with a telescope on Sunday.(Stellarium)

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