Sky at a Glance 2021 April 17 – 24

Photo showing location of the constellation Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2021 April 17 – 24 ~by Curt Nason

One third of the way from Arcturus to Vega is a pretty semicircle of stars that makes up Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. In the middle of the semicircle is the constellation’s brightest star, called Gemma (“jewel”) or Alphecca (“bright star of the broken ring”), among other names. About five years ago the International Astronomical Union started approving official names for stars, and Alphecca was chosen over Gemma.

Some ancient societies regarded Corona Borealis as a begging bowl, and in local aboriginal legend it is the cave from which the bear (the bowl of the Big Dipper) emerges in spring. In Greek mythology it was a crown worn by Bacchus, the god of wine, who lived on the island of Naxos. Theseus, an Athenian prince, went to Crete as part of a group of youth who were to be placed in the labyrinth as food for the Minotaur. With the aid of Ariadne, the beautiful daughter of King Minos, Theseus slew the Minotaur and found his way out of the labyrinth. In love with Ariadne, he took her aboard to sail back to Athens. They stopped at Naxos where Bacchus also fell in love with Ariadne, and he made Theseus leave without her. To prove his love and his godliness to the skeptical Ariadne, he tossed the crown into the sky as a symbol of her beauty. Immortality and a lifetime supply of wine, who could pass that up?

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:28 am and sunset will occur at 8:09 pm, giving 13 hours, 41 minutes of daylight (6:35 am and 8:13 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday, the Sun will rise at 6:16 am and set at 8:18 pm, giving 14 hours, 2 minutes of daylight (6:23 am and 8:21 pm in Saint John).

The Moon passes very near the M35 star cluster of Gemini this Saturday evening, and it is at first quarter on Tuesday. Mars starts the week a wide binocular field west of M35 and ends the week within a low power telescope view of the cluster. Jupiter and Saturn are the attention grabbers in the morning sky, with the ringed planet about 15 degrees west of brighter Jupiter. Mercury is at superior conjunction on Sunday, and by next Saturday it will be just to the right of Venus in bright twilight after sunset. The Lyrid meteor shower peaks on Thursday morning, providing a few extra shooting stars for night owls and early risers.

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.

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