Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 1, 2011.
Skylights now resumes its usual weekly schedule. Really.
No "April fool" here, the Moon starts our week as an ultra-thin waning crescent the morning of
Saturday, April 2, that will be difficult to see
(well to the left of Venus) without
a very clear sky and a good eastern horizon. New Moon is passed
during daylight hours on Sunday the 3rd. Under the same
circumstances as above, you might then pick the thin waxing crescent low in the west
the evening of Monday the 4th. By the next evening, the Moon will
be obvious in twilight, the night-time side aglow with light
reflected to it from Earth. With Taurus and its clusters descending
night-by-night into the west, they are now met by the growing
crescent. The evening of Wednesday the 6th, the Moon will be
nicely positioned directly beneath the Pleiades, while the next night it will be up and to the
left of the cluster and to the right of the Hyades, recognizable by bright Aldebaran. First quarter is not reached until
Monday the 11th.
As much as it does to the Moon, the week belongs to Jupiter and Saturn. Slowly
settling into twilight, the giant of the Solar System is now truly
gone, as it passes conjunction with the
Sun on Wednesday the 6th. Look for it low in the eastern morning sky sometime
in May. Three days before, on Sunday the 3rd, Saturn does the
reverse by going through opposition with the Sun (when it is
obviously also nearly opposite Jupiter). At that time, Saturn will
rise at sunset (still well-positioned in Virgo to the northwest of
Spica), cross the meridian at local midnight (1 AM Daylight
Time), and set at sunrise. Mercury is out of sight as
it heads for solar conjunction, and Mars has yet to clear
morning's twilight. Which, among the "ancient planets," leaves
Venus, which is slowly disappearing itself. Twilight finally
having caught up with it, the brightest of planets now does not
rise until half an hour past the beginning of dawn.
We celebrate the true stars of Spring. As Gemini settles into the west, look to the east of it
for Leo with its famed "Sickle" that ends in Regulus, to the east of which is Virgo with Spica and Saturn. Then,
as it rises in evening's hours, admire the orange light of the
northern hemisphere's brightest star, Arcturus of Bootes, the Herdsman, which guides Ursa Major and the Big
Dipper around the Pole.