Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What's In The Skies This Month - April

It's April 1st and that means that 2015 is now officially 1/4 of the way done with.. It also means its time for another edition of "What's In The Skies This Month", where Charles from Chuckwalla Observatory joins us to give a quick rundown of what's going on in the heavens this month.   A Huge thank you to Charles for taking the time to write this for us :)

Astro-blog for April, 2015

Moon Phases for April

April 4th is the date of April's full moon. This one is known as the Full Pink Moon by early Native Americans because pink phlox flowers would bloom during this time of year. However, this year a special event will turn the Full Pink Moon into a Full Red Moon!

Lunar Eclipse photographed from Mojave Desert Oct 8th, 2014

The 18th marks April's new moon. This is good timing, because a young moon will mean dark skies for a meteor shower that is set to occur a few days afterwards.

Planets in April

You will notice the planet Venus rising higher into the evening sky this month, and glowing extremely bright well after sunset. In fact, Venus will be about magnitude -3.6 by mid-month. Magnitude is simply the measured brightness of an object as seen from Earth. The lower the number, the brighter the object. Objects with negative values are exceptionally bright. The Sun is about -26, whereas the full moon is around -12.5. The magnitude of Venus can vary depending on it's position in it's orbit.
When Venus is at it's brightness it can nearly reach magnitude -5. Through a telescope, Venus is still in a gibbous phase this month, but is steadily making it's way to a half illuminated phase from our perspective.

Jupiter is still in good standing for observation this month. It will be near the zenith by sunset and sets in the early morning hours. Because the distance is growing between our world and the king of planets, Jupiter will look smaller in the eyepiece than it did last month.

Saturn is making steady progress at replacing Jupiter as the dominant planet in the sky. It rises before midnight, but you'll still want to observe it in the early morning hours to allow it to gain some altitude. As the days go on the views of the ringed wonder will get better and better as it nears opposition in late May.

Special Events

The big happening this month occurs on the same night of the full moon. A total lunar eclipse will grace the skies over the Americas, Australia and Asia. The best views of the eclipse in the USA will be from the west coast. For more information on this lunar eclipse, including when are where you can view it, visit this article on the Universe Today's website.

On the night of April 22nd and morning of the 23rd, the Lyrids meteor shower will reach it's peak. The moon will set after midnight, leaving dark skies during the best hours to view the shower. The Lyrids average about 20 meteors per hour and can produce dust trails. They are called the Lyrids because the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation of Lyra, which is home to the famous Ring Nebula.

Location of Radiant for Lyrids on April 22nd


The first part of International Astronomy Day is April 25th this year. Astronomy Day is an event intended to raise public awareness about astronomy and the universe we live in. Astronomy clubs and societies, museums, schools, planetariums and observatories will be putting on public events such as telescope viewing sessions and presentations about astronomy. Astronomy Day is a two part event that is normally held in the spring and fall. The second part of International Astronomy Day will be on September 19th. For more information, including a list of events planned in your area, visit the Astronomical League's Astronomy Day webpage:

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