Meteor shower, ‘Flower Moon’ in the skies this week above Northern California

This week will be an exciting one for sky watchers in Sonoma County, that is, if the clouds will get out of the way.|

This week will be an exciting one for sky watchers in Sonoma County, that is, if the clouds will get out of the way.

NASA scientists are recommending residents in Northern California and across the Northern Hemisphere watch the skies between Thursday and Sunday, when the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, which began in late April, is expected to peak.

The Eta Aquarids — small particles of ice and dust left behind from Halley’s comet — are known for their speed, according to the agency; with the meteors hitting Earth’s atmosphere and burning up at 148,000 miles per hour. That speed leaves a glowing trail in the sky in the area where the Aquarius constellation in the southeastern skies can be seen that can last for several seconds, NASA said on its website. The shower has an hourly rate of 10-30 meteors an hour in the Northern Hemisphere.

The best times to watch the Eta Aquarids are between midnight and dawn Thursday through Sunday, according to the American Meteor Society.

Officials advise that stargazers find a wide-open viewing area away from lights. Bring blankets or a warm drink, and be patient. It will take your eyes about 30 minutes to adjust.

Also happening in the nighttime sky Thursday and Friday is the “Flower Moon.” According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the Flower Moon is the name given to May's full moon because "flowers spring forth across North America in abundance this month."

This month’s “Flower Moon” event will also include a penumbral lunar eclipse, which occurs when Earth's outer shadow falls on the moon's face, but it will not be visible in North America, reported, as the eclipse will happen between 8 a.m. and noon Pacific Standard Time, when the moon is below the horizon locally.

Additionally, reports that the planet Venus will be especially bright to the naked eye in the western sky, between the stars that make up the horns in the Taurus constellation, between sunset and midnight throughout the month.

“The significance of having several events in the sky at once is simply that it is more exciting to go out and look up at the sky,” Rachel Freed, amateur astronomer, educator and docent at Robert Ferguson Observatory in Kenwood, wrote in an email.

But, because of the full moon, it will be much harder to see most of the meteors, Freed said, as they will be “washed out” by the moonlight.

“However, the shower lasts for several weeks so there are more opportunities to look for ‘shooting stars,’” she said.

While Thursday’s forecast calls for cloudy conditions in Sonoma County, Freed wrote that “it can be beautiful to see the full moon appear and disappear through the clouds as they move by.“

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