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
(where it is closest to the Earth) just two days later, coastal
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
The planetary sky remains represented by the Solar System's two
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.