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May Space Spectacular: Eclipse, Morning Planets, Meteors for Oregon / Washington Coast

Published 04/26/22 at 6:42 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

May Space Spectacular: Eclipse, Morning Planets, Meteors for Oregon / Washington Coast

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(Portland, Oregon) – There is much ado about the skies above the Oregon coast and Washington coast in May, with some phenomena actually starting this week. Look for a full lunar eclipse in the middle of the month, a second meteor shower peaking, a conjunction of planets in the morning and a possible run of slow meteors coming at the end of May. Coastal towns like Gold Beach, Coos Bay, Newport, Cannon Beach, Long Beach and Moclips will be getting an eyeful – if the skies open up enough at the right time.

According to OMSI astronomy expert Jim Todd in Portland, there will be a remarkable merging of the planets as Venus and Jupiter get so close together at one point that they'll form one, especially bright area. Todd said it starts to happen on the morning of April 30 just before sunrise, and then again on May 1 about the same time. Venus and Jupiter will be just above the eastern horizon shortly before the sun comes up.

“ Venus (-4 mag) will be the brighter than Jupiter (-2 mag),” he said. “Jupiter will be less than 1 degree to the left of Venus on April 30, and the opposite side on May 1. Because of the glare from both planets, viewers will see them merge into one very bright twilight. Binoculars are recommended to view the close conjunctions before sunrise.”


Courtesy EarthSky.org

The two will be less than one degree apart, Todd said, although in actuality Venus is 93 million miles and Jupiter at 526 million miles from Earth.


Planets converge in Seaside

Also keep a lookout for Mars quite a ways to the right, Todd said. From the viewpoint of those on the Washington coast and Oregon coast it is still far ahead in orbit and it cannot compete with the others in brightness.

From now through May 27, the Eta Aquariids meteor showers will be gracing the skies above the Pacific Northwest, including the Oregon coast and Washington coast. Their peak comes around May 4 - 6, and astronomers say there may be some more leeway there, as the peaks can run for another day or two on either side of that timeline.


Streak above Manzanita (likely an irridium flare)

They often produce 10 to 30 streaks per hour at their apex, but not a lot of fireballs. Eta Aquariids come from the dust that comprises the tail of Halley's Comet. Two Meteor Showers Overlapping Above Oregon / Washington Coast, Another Peak Coming 

The big show for the Oregon coast and Washington coast in May happens over the evening of May 15 into the morning of the 16th with a total eclipse of the moon. Space.com said the Oregon coast and Washington coast will get an especially dramatic view of it, albeit hard to see. As it rises a little after 9:20 p.m. in many of these spots (later up north than down south), it will already be in total phase. It will be more difficult to spot as it pops up above the horizon to the east, but it will be a dramatic blood red or orange.

The southern Oregon coast will get to see it a little sooner than up around the central Washington coast. See Oregon Coast Weather - Washington Coast Weather

For these beach areas, Space.com said it will be “transforming the Moon into a ruddy, ghostly orb, 'magnified' as it comes above the east-southeast horizon by the well-known 'moon illusion' and perhaps nicely framed by distant landmarks.”

Totality ends about 9:50 p.m., and clouds be willing, the coastlines will be witness to all that. See full story Big Eclipses Coming to Oregon / Washington Coast Next Month, Next Year.

Space.com and loads of astronomers around the world are looking forward to the possibility of the most dramatic sky event in awhile, as May 30 and 31 may see the Earth going through another debris field from a remnant of comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. It's simply a possibility, however, not a likelihood. They could be slow-moving but huge in number, maybe even dozens per hour.

So far, it's only a possibility, however. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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