Sky at a Glance April 8 – 15

A photo of the Spring sky showing Constellations.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, April 8 – April 15   ~by Curt Nason

The spring star is springing up in the east these evenings. Arcturus is the fourth brightest star in the sky and the second brightest we can see from New Brunswick. It is just a tad brighter than Vega, the summer star, which rises around 9 pm this week. The winter star, Sirius, sets around midnight and Capella, the autumn star, never sets in southern New Brunswick.

Arcturus anchors the constellation Boötes (bo-oh-teez) the Herdsman, and the star’s name means “bear driver.” Boötes is seen chasing the two bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, around the celestial North Pole. To many people the constellation resembles a tie, a kite or an ice cream cone. The head of the herdsman, at the tip of the constellation opposite Arcturus, is the star Nekkar, which sounds somewhat like necktie.

Halfway between Arcturus and the hind leg of Ursa Major is the star Cor Coroli in Canes Venatici the Hunting Dogs. Use binoculars to look for a fuzzy patch halfway between Arcturus and Cor Coroli. This is a globular cluster called M3, the third entry in Charles Messier’s 18th century catalogue of things that resemble a comet but aren’t. This cluster contains half a million stars at a distance of 34,000 light years, nearly a thousand times farther than Arcturus.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:45 am and sunset will occur at 7:56 pm, giving 13 hours, 11 minutes of daylight (6:51 am and 8:01 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:32 am and set at 8:05 pm, giving 13 hours, 33 minutes of daylight (6:38 am and 8:09 pm in Saint John).

The Moon passes near Jupiter on Monday and on Tuesday it is full; the Mi’Kmaw Birds Laying Eggs Time Moon. Jupiter is higher in the east after sunset each evening. Use binoculars over the next few weeks to see its retrograde westward motion relative to the nearby star Theta Virginis. Mercury is ending its best evening viewing for the year, working its way sunward toward an inferior conjunction on April 20. Mars is seen as an orange star in the west, setting before 11 pm. Venus brightens the morning sky before sunrise in the east, and look south for Saturn above the spout of the Sagittarius Teapot. With binoculars around 5:30 am this weekend you might see comet C/2014 E4 Lovejoy as a small fuzzy patch near the northwest corner of the Square of Pegasus. Another comet, C/2015 ER61 PanSTARRS, has apparently brightened to binocular range above Capricornus. See the Heavens-Above website for finder maps of both comets.

The William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets at 7 pm on Tuesday in the UNB Forestry / Earth Sciences building in Fredericton. All are welcome.

Questions? You can contact Curt Nason here.

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