Sky at a Glance April 7 – 14

Photo showing location of the constellation Canes Venatici the Hunting Dogs below the handle of the Big Dipper.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, April 7 – 14 ~by Curt Nason

Although Orion and his two dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, are slipping into the sunset, they are not the only pooches in the night sky. The small constellation of Canes Venatici the Hunting Dogs is generally seen as a pair of stars well below the handle of the Big Dipper. They assist their master, Boötes, in chasing the celestial bears around the pole.

In one tale from mythology Boötes is Icarius, a vineyard owner who was taught the art of winemaking by Bacchus. He introduced his shepherd neighbours to his product, and when they awoke hung over the next morning they thought they had been poisoned. In retaliation they killed Icarius and threw him in a ditch. His dogs, Chara and Asterion, sensed something was wrong and when they eventually found their master they jumped into the ditch to die with him.

The brightest star in Canes Venatici is a double star called Cor Caroli, which means the heart of Charles. Edmond Halley coined this because it was said the star shone brightly when Charles II returned to London after his defeat by Cromwell. Halfway between Cor Caroli and Arcturus, the brightest star in Boötes, you can see a fuzzy patch with binoculars. This is the globular star cluster M3 from Messier’s catalogue.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:47 am and sunset will occur at 7:55 pm, giving 13 hours, 8 minutes of daylight (6:53 am and 7:59 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:34 am and set at 8:05 pm, giving 13 hours, 31 minutes of daylight (6:40 am and 8:08 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter on Sunday, rising at 3 am and setting at 12:30 pm. It is near Mercury on the morning of April 14 but both will be difficult to see even with binoculars. Venus is slowly creeping higher in the west after sunset and is seen easily in twilight. Jupiter, Saturn and Mars continue to give good observing opportunities in the morning sky before 6 am, with the bonus of having the Moon near Saturn and Mars this weekend.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets on Saturday, April 7 at 7 pm in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre. The William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets at the UNB Fredericton Forestry / Earth Sciences building at 7 pm on Tuesday. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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