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Low tide High tide

Photos of the Week. Another view of low and high tides at Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 19, 2013.

Having just passed first quarter last Thursday, April 18, the Moon spends most of our week in its waxing gibbous phase, which ends with full Moon (the "Grass Moon" or "Egg Moon") on Thursday the 25th. Since technical full Moon actually takes place during daylight in North America, the Moon will rise that evening just past the phase and just after sunset. That means the Americas do not get to see the l unar eclipse, which will be visible throughout much of Asia and Africa. No matter, it's not a very good one anyway, as the Moon barely clips the circle of complete shadow. Since the Moon passes perigee (where it is closest to the Earth) just two days later, coastal full-Moon tides will be especially large.

The night of Friday the 19th, the Moon will lie to the west of Regulus in Leo, while the following night it will pass below the star. Look then the evening of Wednesday the 24th to see the Moon fall just below Virgo's Spica and the following night for it to pass a few degrees south of Saturn. Spica will be occulted as seen from parts of central America and points south.

The planetary sky remains represented by the Solar System's two giants, Jupiter and Saturn. In the west after sundown, now setting just after 11 PM Daylight time, Jupiter is slowly disappearing, which leaves us with Saturn. Rising just after sunset, the ringed planet can be found crossing the meridian to the south about half an hour after local midnight (1:30 AM Daylight). The only other planetary event is an invisible conjunction between Mercury and Uranus on Friday the 19th.

The week is highlighted by the Lyrid meteor shower, which is expected to reach its peak the morning of Monday the 22nd. Though capable of greater numbers, it usually produces 10 to 20 meteors an hour. Seeming to emanate from the constellation Lyra (marked by bright Vega), the meteors are the flakings of the great Comet Thatcher of 1861, which visits the inner Solar System every 415 years or so. Look especially in the narrow window when the sky is dark just before dawn following Moonset. Comet Pan-STARRS remains in the northwest after sundown, but is fading.

Look high, nearly overhead, in mid-evening to see the seven-star figure of the Big Dipper of Ursa Major, the Larger Bear. Then follow the curve of the handle southward to Arcturus and on to Spica. To the west of Spica lies the four-star box that makes Corvus, the Crow, whose top stars point easterly back to the Spica. Farther west are the dim stars of Crater, the Cup.
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