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May's skies bring gifts

May 2, 2012 By Carolyn B. Tyler

The "Full Flower Moon," so named by some American Indian tribes who didn't anticipate our early spring this year, but also known by others as the "Corn Planting Moon" or the "Milk Moon," rises this Saturday evening, May 5.

The Old Farmer's Almanac tells us, based on the moon's signs and phases in May, that the best days for planting above-ground crops are the 5th, 23rd, and 24th, and for below-ground crops, the 24th through 26th.

Best fishing days this month are supposed to be the 1st through the 5th, and the 20th through the 31st.

A few other of May's "best days" are the 1st and 28th to begin a diet to gain weight, and 14th and 19th to begin a diet to lose weight.

The 16th and 17th supposedly are the best days to destroy weeds. If you want to go camping, the 7th and 8th are recommended. And to quit smoking, the 14th and 19th are prime days.

The moon, gloriously full, reaches perigee (its closest point to Earth) before midnight on May 5. The Old Farmer's Almanac suggests that clothes washed for the first time in the full moon will not last long, and that the full moon is an ideal time to accept a proposal of marriage.

May also is a month of meteor showers and a solar eclipse, according to the monthly look at the night skies of the northern Rocky Mountains, written by astronomers Ron Canterna, University of Wyoming; Jay Norris, Challis, Idaho Observatory; and Daryl Macomb, Boise State University. They write:

"To orient yourself to our May skies, the Big Dipper will be directly overhead at dusk.

"The cup of the dipper is opened northward; the dipper's handle starts a great arc southward in the sky, arriving at the bright orangish star Arcturus, and then ending at the bluish gem, Spica. This process sometimes is called 'arcing to Arcturus.'

"Arcturus, the 'guardian of the bear,' is the brightest star in the kite-shaped constellation Bootes, the herdsman or 'bear driver.' Spica is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.

"Near the western horizon, you will see the last of Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion, and the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux.

"Late in the early evening, rising above the eastern horizon, you will start to see the celestial beckoning of summer, the three bright stars -- Vega, Deneb and Altair -- of the 'summer triangle.'

"In the early morning of May 4-5, the Earth passes through a stream of cometary debris believed to once be a part of Halley's cometary nucleus.

"Looking above the eastern horizon toward the constellation Aquarius, the Aquarid meteor showers can best be seen in the early morning of May 5.

"On May 20, an annular solar eclipse will pass in the Pacific and Western United States. The Northern Rockies will only see a partial solar eclipse.

"For you planetary viewers: Saturn is in Virgo near Spica, Mars is in Leo near Regulus, and Venus, the brightest of the planets, is in Auriga, centered between Capella, Aldeberan, and the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux."

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