Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 16, 2010.
The Moon grows
this week from our initial view of the waxing
crescent toward its first quarter on
Wednesday, April 21, about the time of Moonrise in North America.
We then have a day of the waxing
gibbous before time runs out and we are into Skylights' next
Be sure to catch the sight in evening western twilight as our week
begins, the evening of Friday the 16th, when the thin crescent will
lie directly above Venus and below
the Pleiades star cluster in
Taurus, the three in a line
perpendicular to the horizon. The following evening, that of
Saturday the 17th, our Moon will form a nice triangle with the
Pleiades down and to the right of it, the Hyades (the Pleiades sister cluster in Taurus) down and
to the left.
Continuing along, then look for the fattening crescent to pass
below Gemini's Castor and Pollux the night of Tuesday the 20th.
The following evening is even better, with the near-perfect quarter
Moon passing south of Mars and the Beehive cluster, our companion then approaching Regulus in Leo the night of Thursday the 22nd, with Mars now to the west of
The evening sky appears awash with planets. Venus, now setting
just after the end of twilight, is easily visible in the west-
Mercury hanging on down and to the right of it. Mars now
appears to the west of the meridian as
twilight ends, and does not set until 3 AM Daylight Time. Picking
up speed to the east against the stars (as seen from Earth), the
red planet finally passes just a bit over a degree to the north of
Cancer's Beehive cluster on Friday the 16th, the two making a fine
sight in binoculars. Looking to the east, then find
Saturn between Leo's Regulus and Virgo's Spica, the
ringed planet just under three degrees to the north of the Autumnal Equinox. Transiting at
11 PM, Saturn is with us until twilight brightens the eastern sky.
That leaves Jupiter, which
is still stuck in eastern morning twilight and remains difficult to
Then if you are an early riser, you might spot a couple meteors
from the small Lyrid shower, which emanates from the
constellation Lyra and that peaks the
morning of Thursday the 22nd.
'Tis full spring and Leo season,
this prominent member of the Zodiac on fine display to the
south around 10 PM. The head of the celestial Lion is formed by
one of the most famed of informal asterisms, the "Sickle," which closely resembles a
backward question mark with Regulus at its bottom. Bringing up the
rear is the Lion's Tail, marked by Denebola, the eastern-most star of
a prominent triangle.