You might spot it after sunrise on April 30, high in the sky. Did you know a last quarter moon is slightly fainter than a first quarter moon? Learn why here.
Tonight, let the sparkling blue-white star Spica act as your guide to the Omega Centauri star cluster. You can see this cluster with the unaided eye, if your car is dark enough and if you’re far enough south on the Earth. Charts and tips for finding it from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, inside.
Hadar, aka Beta Centauri, joins Alpha Centauri in pointing to the Southern Cross. It’s a triple system. Two of its stars will someday become nearby supernovae.
Rebecca wrote, “What is ‘star hopping?’ What does that mean?”
Amateur astronomers use star hopping to go from stars and constellations they know … to ones they don’t know yet. First, look for noticeable patterns on the sky’s dome. One very easy pattern to find at this time of year is the constellation Orion the Hunter. You’ll find it descending in the west after sunset. Orion is easy to find because it contains a very noticeable pattern of three medium-bright stars in a short straight row. These stars represent Orion’s Belt.
In 2016, the forecast calls for the greatest number of Eta Aquarid meteors to light up the predawn darkness on May 5 and 6. It should be a good year for this shower, with the May 6 new moon guaranteeing deliciously dark skies for the 2016 Eta Aquarids. This shower favors the Southern Hemisphere, ranking as one of the finest showers of the year. At mid-northern latitudes, these meteors don’t fall so abundantly, though mid-northern meteor watchers will catch some, too, and might be lucky enough to catch an earthgrazer – a bright, long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across the sky – before dawn. Follow the links inside to learn more about the Eta Aquarids!
Tonight – April 24, 2016 – if you can stay up late, or wake up early, you can use the moon to locate the red planet Mars! The planet will be the brightest of three starlike objects in the moon’s vicinity from late evening April 24 until dawn April 25.
Spica looks like one star, but it is at least two stars, both larger and hotter than our sun, orbiting only 18 million kilometers (11 million miles) apart. That’s in contrast to 150 million kilometers for Earth’s distance from our sun. Their mutual gravity distorts each star into an egg shape, with the pointed ends facing each other as they whirl around, completing a single orbit in only four days. Follow the links inside to learn more about Spica, brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, near Mars in 2014.
A list of major meteor showers in 2016. Next one up: the Eta Aquarids. Peak mornings May 5 and 6, but it’s a broad peak … watch several mornings around peak dates.