Photo of the Week. Crescent with earthlight (light
reflected from Earth onto the Moon's nighttime side) and Venus.
Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, April 10,
The next skylights will appear April 24, 2015.
We begin the week with the Moon in its late waning gibbous phase. Last quarter is passed the night of
Saturday April 11, after which the Moon fades as a waning crescent. With your last
view of the crescent to the east the morning of Friday the 17th,
the phase ends at new Moon on Saturday the 18th, after which the
Moon switches to western evening skies as a waxing crescent. The twilit evening of Sunday the
19th, the ultraslim crescent will appear to the left of Mars and
Mercury, while the following evening, the crescent will appear
well below Venus. The best sight will be the
evening of Tuesday the 21st when the growing Moon will make a nice
pairing to the left of the brilliant planet, with the Hyades and Aldebaran of Taurus below. The Moon passes perigee, where
it is closest to Earth, the night of Thursday the 16th.
Until a couple hours past the end of twilight, western skies are
completely dominated by lustrous Venus, which is behind only the
Moon and Sun in celestial brightness. Look for Venus to the left
of the Pleiades cluster the evening of Saturday the 11th. Just
after sunset, number four in brilliance, Jupiter, still to the west of Leo's Regulus, crosses the meridian to the south, while a couple
hours later, Saturn rises just north of Antares in Scorpius. Not that we will actually witness the
event, but dim Pluto begins
retrograde motion in Sagittarius on Friday the 17th.
Among the better-known meteor showers, the Lyrids (which seem to emanate from the
constellation Lyra), will reach a
peak the night of Wednesday the 22nd, rather the morning of
Thursday the 23rd, when Lyra is high in the sky and the Moon is out
of the way. The shower typically produces 15 to 20 meteors an
hour. The Lyrids are the debris of Comet
Thatcher, which has a long period of 415 years.
As the Sun climbs north along the ecliptic, the constellations of the "wet quarter,"
Capricornus (the Water Goat) to
the west, Aquarius (the Water
Bearer) in the middle, and Pisces (the Fishes) to the east, are being left behind
to appear in morning skies. Taurus and the rest of the winter
gang will soon follow to be taken over by evening twilight. Look
then for the figures of summer, Lyra with Vega (as noted above), followed to the
east by Cygnus, the Swan. Upside
down, Cygnus becomes the Northern Cross, which rises on its side
with Deneb at the top, the star
representing the tail of the graceful bird.