Sky at a Glance 2022 April 16 – 23

Photo showing the Northern Cross--Cygnus the Swan next to Vega at Easter.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2022 April 16 – 23 ~by Curt Nason

With Easter happening this weekend let us look for signs of it in the night sky. Lambs have long been associated with spring and Easter, so we can start with Aries the Ram low in the west after sunset. For many, the symbol of Easter is Peter Cottontail, the Easter Bunny. When darkness sets in we can see Lepus the Hare below the feet of Orion. I see the constellation as three vertical pairs of stars, with the brightest pair in the middle and the widest to the right. In Germanic mythology, Ostara, the goddess of spring, found a wounded bird and changed it into a hare so that it could survive. This animal was allowed to run as fast as it could fly and it retained the ability to lay eggs, which it did in spring to honour its rescuer. The Saxon name for the goddess was Eostre. With a late Easter this year both Aries and Lepus will be difficult targets, near setting on the western horizon at 9 pm.

Sunrise services are a popular way to celebrate Easter, and that is a good time to look for religious Easter symbols in the sky if you are an hour or two early. The Northern Cross, the most recognizable part of Cygnus the Swan, is high in the east among the procession of constellations. Look for semicircular Corona Borealis to the southwest, one third of the way from the bright star Arcturus toward equally bright Vega. Can you picture this as a cave with an open door? It does play the role of a cave in a local aboriginal legend in which the bowl of the Big Dipper is a bear pursued by seven hunters.

I think the best symbol is seen on the full Moon when it is full or nearly so. When it rises in spring, look for the dark bunny ears to the upper right. With them identified, it isn’t difficult to picture Peter Cottontail clutching a giant egg.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:31 am and sunset will occur at 8:07 pm, giving 13 hours, 36 minutes of daylight (6:37 am and 8:11 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:18 am and set at 8:17 pm, giving 13 hours, 59 minutes of daylight (6:25 am and 8:20 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full this Saturday; the first full Moon after March 21 and hence this is Easter weekend; and it will reach third quarter phase next Saturday. The planets Saturn, Mars, Venus and Jupiter are stretched out along the shallow-angled ecliptic in the morning sky, with Saturn rising first midweek around 4:10 and with each planet leading the next by 20-30 minutes. For the next two weeks Mercury will be at its best evening observing for the year, reaching greatest elongation from the Sun on April 29 near the Pleiades. Next Friday or Saturday morning and late Friday night we might see a few extra shooting stars arising from near the bright star Vega as the Lyrid meteor shower peaks.

On Sunday evening at 8 pm, tune in to the Sunday Night Astronomy Show via the Facebook page or YouTube channel of Astronomy by the Bay.

On Sunday evening at 8 pm, tune in to the Sunday Night Astronomy Show via the Facebook page or YouTube channel of Astronomy by the Bay.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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