This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2021 April 10 – 17 ~by Curt Nason
As the Sun is setting this week, Spica is rising in the east. This blue giant star is the brightest in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, and the 14th brightest star of the night sky. It is usually located by following the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle to Arcturus and driving a spike to Spica. With Arcturus in Boötes and Regulus (or dimmer Denebola) in Leo, it forms the Spring Triangle. If you toss in Cor Coroli in Canes Venatici, below the handle of the Big Dipper, you get the Spring Diamond.
Spica represents an ear of wheat in the hand of Virgo. In Greek mythology she was Demeter, the goddess of wheat or agriculture (Ceres in Roman mythology). The Sun passes through this constellation in harvest time and it is in the head of Virgo at the autumnal equinox. Virgo is the second largest of the 88 constellations in terms of area of sky, trailing only Hydra the Water Snake. Coincidentally, it also trails Hydra in the sky, which can be seen stretching below Leo. The constellation is home to 11 Messier objects, second to Sagittarius in this distinction, and all of them are galaxies. Included in this group is M87, the huge galaxy that had the image of its central black hole shadow released at this time two years ago.
This Week in the Solar System
Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:41 am and sunset will occur at 8:00 pm, giving 13 hours, 19 minutes of daylight (6:47 am and 8:04 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday, the Sun will rise at 6:28 am and set at 8:09 pm, giving 13 hours, 41 minutes of daylight (6:35 am and 8:13 pm in Saint John).
The Moon is new this Sunday, and with weather luck and binoculars a very slim 21 hour old crescent might be spotted after sunset Monday. Mars starts the week between horn tips of Taurus the Bull, and within two weeks it will have crossed the constellation border into Gemini. The borders are open in the night sky. Jupiter and Saturn are the attention grabbers in the morning sky. Mercury and Venus will be out of sight until late in the month when they pop up in the west after sunset.
With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm and view archived shows.
Questions? Contact Curt Nason.