Sky at a Glance April 22 – 29

Photo of Venus and the Moon near the constellation Virgo in April

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, April 22 – 29   ~by Curt Nason

April 24 -30 is International Astronomy Week, and April 29 is Astronomy Day. Astronomy Day had its beginning in 1973 in California when amateur astronomers set up telescopes in busy urban areas to let people have views of the Moon and planets, hence its motto of “Bringing Astronomy to the People.” Astronomy Day is usually held on the Saturday nearest the first quarter Moon between mid-April and mid-May. Ten years ago a Fall Astronomy Day was added between mid-September and mid-October, when sunset is earlier and the weather is often better for observing.

Sidewalk astronomy, setting telescopes up in within a busy area of a community, is a popular activity during Astronomy Week. Often people will question why we are set up there, near streetlights, when their expectation is that nothing can be seen. The Moon and most planets, those celestial objects having the greatest “Wow Factor” for first-time observers, are bright enough that lighting has little effect on the views. If they are intrusive you can simply block them with your hand. Sidewalk observing events are often done on short notice, depending on the weather and whether the Moon or planets are visible.

Astronomers in Saint John are celebrating Astronomy Day with public observing at the Rockwood Park Bark Park (using the Fisher Lakes entrance to the park) from 9 pm to 11 pm, with Sunday (April 30) as a back-up date in case it is cloudy on Saturday. The Moon, Jupiter and Mars will hold court until after twilight. As darkness falls a variety of telescopes will be turned toward star clusters, double stars, galaxies, maybe a comet, and more. Such events are great places to learn the constellations, have questions answered, and to scope out any equipment you might have thought about buying. If you need a break from hockey playoffs, please join us.

Bringing astronomy to the people; hoping to bring more people to astronomy. Happy Astronomy Week!

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:20 am and sunset will occur at 8:14 pm, giving 13 hours, 54 minutes of daylight (6:26 am and 8:18 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:08 am and set at 8:24 pm, giving 14 hours, 16 minutes of daylight (6:15 am and 8:27 pm in Saint John).

The waning crescent Moon is near Venus in the morning sky on Sunday and it is new on Wednesday. Jupiter is in good position for observing all evening, but at its best near midnight when it is highest in the south. Its moon Europa emerges from the planet’s shadow at 11:29 pm on Tuesday. Mars can be seen low in the west between the dipper-shaped Pleiades and V-shaped Hyades star clusters this week. Venus continues to brighten in the morning sky while Saturn puts its rings on display for early risers with a small scope. Early risers might also catch a few shooting stars from the minor Lyrid meteor shower on April 22.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Picture: Moon and Venus at 5:30 am Sunday.

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