Sky at a Glance April 13 – 20

Photo showing the location of Spica in the constellation Virgo

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 April 13 – 20 ~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.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:37 am and sunset will occur at 8:03 pm, giving 13 hours, 26minutes of daylight (6:43 am and 8:07 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:24 am and set at 8:12 pm, giving 13 hours, 48 minutes of daylight (6:30 am and 8:16 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at its best for April observing this weekend and it is full on Good Friday, April 19. Mars is near Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus and which marks the Bull’s eye. This gives us a good opportunity to compare their brightness and colour. Jupiter rises by 1 am and is at its best for observing before dawn. Saturn is a hand span to Jupiter’s lower left, while Venus and Mercury are about a binocular width apart rising less than an hour before sunrise.

There will be public observing in Hampton at the Dutch Point Road entrance to Dutch Point Park on Friday, April 12 at sunset, with a cloud date of April 13. RASC NB, the provincial astronomy club, meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on Saturday, April 13 at 1 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *