It’ll be worth waking up before sunrise on April 25 to see the waning crescent moon and the planet Venus in the early morning sky. Look eastward – in the direction of sunrise – and you can’t miss this brilliant twosome at dawn. After all, the moon and Venus rank as the second-brightest and third-brightest heavenly bodies, after the sun.
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.
The Lyrid shower has mostly passed, but you might still see some stray meteors. Try watching from midnight to dawn on the mornings of April 24-26, 2014. Here’s the good news. The moon is waning and appearing in the sky for fewer hours of the night. So although meteor rates will be way down in contrast to earlier this week, you’ll have a better shot at seeing faint meteors in moonless sky.
A meteor shower is coming up in early May 2014 that should make our friends in the Southern Hemisphere very happy. The Eta Aquarid shower, which peaks before dawn May 5-7, is a fine one to view from tropical and southerly latitudes. 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. Because the Eta Aquarids are mainly a predawn shower, the waxing moon in early May will have set before the Eta Aquarid meteors start to streak the nighttime sky. Follow the links inside to learn more about the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.
Our chart at the top of this post shows the constellation Leo the Lion and the Coma star cluster at roughly 9 p.m. local time (10 p.m. local daylight saving time). You can see Leo from the suburbs, but you’ll need a dark sky to find the cluster. In mid-evening now, as seen from mid-northern latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, the constellation of the Lion will be high in the southern sky. In ancient times, the Coma star cluster represented the Lion’s tufted tail.
The Great Cluster in the constellation Hercules – also known as M13 – is considered to be the finest globular cluster in the northern half of the heavens.
Two things to watch for tonight. First, during the evening hours, why not try locating one of the coolest constellations up there? The constellation Hercules the Kneeling Giant can be seen ascending in the east-northeast on these spring evenings. Second, although the Lyrid meteor shower peaks on the morning of April 22, you might still spot some Lyrids streaking along during the night of April 22 into the morning of April 23. Follow the links inside to learn more.
It’s time for the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower! The peak of this shower will fall on the morning of Earth Day, April 22, 2014. The greatest number of meteors should fall during the few hours before dawn. But you might want to watch in late evening, too, because a last quarter moon, rising in the middle of the night, intrudes on the Lyrid shower in 2014. These meteors tend to be bright. Some may overcome the moonlight. Follow the links inside to learn more about the Lyrid meteor shower: April’s shooting stars!
The 2014 Lyrid meteor shower will pepper the night on the evening of April 21 until before dawn April 22. The predawn hours are typically best – and April 22, Earth Day morning, is the peak this year. You might also want to try the evening hours this year, though, because the light of the last quarter moon, rising at midnight, will interfere.
You might see a lot or you might not see many, but if you stay in the house, you won’t see any. Tips for getting the most from the Lyrid meteor shower … or any meteor shower.