Sky at a Glance April 20 – 27

Photo showing location of the constellation Corona Borealis between Arcturus and Vega.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 April 20 – 27 ~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. A few 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 6:24 am and sunset will occur at 8:12 pm, giving 13 hours, 48minutes of daylight (6:30 am and 8:16 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:12 am and set at 8:21 pm, giving 14 hours, 9 minutes of daylight (6:19 am and 8:25 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is near Jupiter on Tuesday, Saturn on Thursday, and it is at third quarter on Friday, April 26. Mars and Jupiter are in opposite ends of the sky this week, with Mars setting and Jupiter rising around 1 am. Saturn is a hand span to the left of Jupiter, with both being well-placed for observing as morning twilight begins. Venus and Mercury remain about a binocular width apart, rising less than an hour before sunrise. Uranus is in conjunction on Monday, and on Monday evening or early Tuesday morning you might catch a few extra meteors emanating from near the bright star Vega as the Lyrid meteor shower peaks.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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