Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, April 21,
Skylights has been produced in various forms for
31 years, since 1985, and even before that as an annual
bulletin. It's now time to simplify Skylights and bring part of
it to a close. We will continue to list lunar phases, planetary
passages, and other significant events for the coming two weeks
on this website, but by bullet, not by prose text. Because there will no
longer be any script, the telephone and emailing services have been dropped.
The Star of the Week will continue as before, as will the Photo of the Week.
Thanks all for your support.
The next Skylights will appear Friday, May 5.
The interval is spent almost entirely with the Moon in
a crescent phase: waning crescent in the
east until new Moon on Wednesday, April 26, then waxing crescent in western evenings thereafter.
The evening of Friday the 28th, see the Moon to the east (above)Aldebaran. The following night it will be
southeast of Zeta Tauri.
The Moon passes five degrees south of Venus at noon
The Moon passes 6 degrees south of Mars.
The Moon will be just east of Regulus the night of Monday,
The Moon is at perigee, closest to Earth, Thursday,
Venus, now a brilliant "morning star," rises at dawn.
Venus will be at greatest brilliancy, Sunday, April 30.
Jupiter is west of the meridian to the south an hour after the
end of twilight; at the same time,
Saturn rises in the east.
Time for the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, May 5-7, the
debris of Comet
Halley, as are the Orionids of October.
This is the best time of year for early-evening viewing
of Big Dipper, the Bear itself
sprawls well to the west and south of it. In the other
direction, to the north, we pass through the stars of Draco, the Dragon, and Camelopardalis (the Giraffe) until
we reach the prize, Polaris,
Alpha Ursae Minoris, (in Ursa
Minor, the Smaller Bear), about which the sky seems to turn.
Though Polaris is not exactly at the true pole and circles
around it, its nightly motion is insensible to the eye. Now just
under three-fourths of a degree from the pole, precession, the 26-000-year wobble of
the Earth's rotational axis, will bring the two to within half a
degree of each other early in the next century. In the opposite
direction, the south pole of the sky
has no bright star to mark its place, only faint Sigma Octantis, in Octans (the obvious Octant), which
has the nearly the same separation from its pole as does
Polaris, but which is getting worse, rather than better. Two
other constellation pairs come
in, "major" and "minor" forms, Canis
Major and Minor (Orion's Hunting Dogs), which lie
far to the southwest of the Big Dipper, and Leo and Leo Minor,
both south of Ursa Major, the latter on the back of the former