Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Flower Moon of May

At long last, northern trees are leafing out, and they are wonderfully silhouetted against the fine inky darkness of springtime.  You can't see leaves and catkins in this photo, but trust me, they are there.

It would have been grand to see the full moon rise last evening, then watch a meteor shower a few hours later, but the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaked during the first week of May (May 5-6), and that was not going to happen. At the height of this year's meteor shower, the waxing moon was bright and a few days past first quarter.  It set just before 4 am, leaving only an hour or so of dark sky for early morning meteor watching.

We can thank Halley's Comet for spring and autumn's light shows.  Every year, Earth passes through the comet's orbit for the first time in late April and early May, and debris from the comet lights up the sky as meteor showers before dawn.  Spring's meteor shower is named after Eta Aquarii, a faint star in the constellation Aquarius from which the meteors appear to originate.  Don't be fooled by appearances though.  Eta Aquarii is about 170 light years away from us while May's light show takes place just 60 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.  Autumn's Orionid meteor shower occurs as our planet passes through Halley's orbit for the second time in October, and that makes the Orionids kin to this month's sparkling performance.  Always an ardent observer of meteor showers, I have probably spent years of my life watching them race across the night, but I have yet to capture a good photo of Halley's castaway children.

We also know May's moon as the: Alewife Moon, Blossom Moon, Bottlebrush Moon, Bright Moon, Budding Moon, Corn Planting Moon, Death Moon, Dragon Moon, Dyad Moon, Fawns Moon, Field Maker Moon, Fifth Moon, Fish Moon, Flowering Moon, Frog Moon, Frogs Return Moon, Geese Go North Moon, Geese Moon, Grass Moon, Green Leaf Moon, Hare Moon, Hoeing Corn Moon, Idle Moon, Iris Moon, Joy Moon, Leaf Dancing Moon, Leaves Appear Moon, Leaves Tender Moon, Lily of the Valley Moon, Little Corn Moon, Little Finger Moon, Magnolia Moon, Merry Moon, Milk Moon, Moon of Big Leaf, Moon of the Strawberry, Moon of the Camas Harvest, Moon of Waiting, Moon To Plant, Moon When Corn is Planted, Moon When Ponies Shed Their Fur, Moon When the Buffalo Plant is in Flower, Moon When the Leaves Are Green, Moon When the Little Flowers Die, Moon When the Horses Get Fat, Moon When Women Weed Corn, Mulberry Moon, Mulberry Ripening Moon, New Waters Moon, Old Woman Moon, Panther Moon, Penawen Moon, Peony Moon, Planting Moon, Putting Seeds in the Hole Moon, Seeds Ripen Moon, Sprout Kale Moon, Staying Home Moon, Storing Moon, Strawberry Moon, Suckers Dried Moon Summer Moon, Thrice Milk Moon, Wind Tossed Moon, Winnemon Moon.

As names go, I am fond of "Leaf Dancing Moon" and "Budding Moon".

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