With a cold front passing the region late Friday Night through Saturday, high pressure is forecast to build in to the forecast area for the weekend. Although some showers could be around for a brief period on Saturday, the high pressure is expected to remain in control for the majority of both Saturday and Sunday. Temperatures, also, will cooperate as the airmass isn’t overly cold behind the front. In fact, high temperatures will still reach into the lower 70’s in many locations on both days. With a light breeze, it will feel quite pleasant. The main highlight of the weekend will come from the sky, but instead of rain or lightning it will come from the moon and a meteor shower. Indeed, an active night sky is expected on the evening of Cinco De Mayo.
Both the Aquarid meteor shower, and a “supermoon” will occur on Saturday night — quite a Cino De Mayo celebration for stargazers and skywatchers alike. A supermoon is a nearly annual occurrence (nearly once a year, but not officially annual) where the moon makes it’s closest approach to earth — and is also full. The moon will be closest at around 11:54pm and will appear up to 30% brighter and 14% bigger than the most dull moon during the calendar year. However, the moon will “appear” biggest when it rises near the horizon (around 8:00pm). Because of “distortion of view” (not fully understood by astronomers), especially if you are near any trees or buildings, the moon will look monstrous in the night sky as it rises above the horizon — in a similar way that the sun can look large when it sets.
But the party doesn’t end there! The debris field of Halley’s comet (also known as the Aquarid meteor shower) will pass near as well — scattering meteors throughout the night sky. The large, full moon is expected to obstruct the otherwise consistently performing meteor shower. Without a bright moon, around 50 meteors per hour are typical from the Aquarids. Expect a bit less this year.
Of course, almost all of our viewing depends on the cloud conditions — and it appears that it will be a close call. Some forecast models are showing an area of low clouds moving from north to south, coincidentally between around 8pm and 12am. If that comes to fruition, the skywatching party would likely be crashed and broken up early. Hopefully, we can maintain clear skies and enjoy a beautiful display from space. We’ll be watching it very closely, so stay tuned for cloud updates throughout the day on Saturday.