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Tonight

Last quarter moon rises around midnight

The last quarter moon rises in the middle of the night and sets in the middle of the day. Photo by Lilliana Mendez of North Bergen, New Jersey.

The last quarter moon rises in the middle of the night and sets in the middle of the day. Photo by Lilliana Mendez of North Bergen, New Jersey.

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.

Jupiter bright and high in sky

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Around the world this evening, on April 28, Jupiter crosses your meridian, and climbs to its highest point for the night, at or around 9 p.m. local time (10 p.m. local daylight saving time). Jupiter is said to be at upper transit (highest point) when it resides on the meridian.

Star Spica, guide to Omega Centauri

Use the star Spica as your guide to the great Omega star cluster

Use the bright star Spica as your guide to the great Omega star cluster

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.

Star of the week: Hadar is a southern pointer star

The sky over APEX: The image shows the southern region of the Milky Way with the stars Alpha and Beta Centauri, the Crux, and the region around Eta Carinae (bright reddish nebula above left of the image centre). The ATLASGAL survey with the APEX telescope covers the galactic plane up to the Carina region.   © © ESO/Y. Beletsky (sky photo) / ESO (APEX telescope) / image collation by C. Urquhart

This image shows the southern region of the Milky Way with the stars Alpha and Beta Centauri and the Southern Cross (at far left), and the region around Eta Carinae (bright reddish nebula above left of the image center). Image via ESO/Y. Beletsky (sky photo) / ESO (APEX telescope) / image collation by C. Urquhart.

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.

How do you star hop?

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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.

Everything you need to know: Eta Aquarid meteor shower

View larger. | The 2013 Eta Aquarid meteor shower was fantastic as viewed from Earth's Southern Hemisphere.  Colin Legg created this composite of his experience on May 6, 2013.  He wrote, 'Composite of approximately 50 images containing 26 meteors, meteor train, 17 % moon, zodiacal light and Pilbara desert.  60 km South of Newman, Western Australia.'

The 2013 Eta Aquarid meteor shower was fantastic as viewed from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. Colin Legg of Australia created this composite of his experience. He wrote, ‘Composite of approximately 50 images containing 26 meteors, meteor train, 17 % moon, zodiacal light and Pilbara desert.’

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!

Moon, Mars, Saturn, Antares on April 25

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Moon is still moving past 2 planets and a bright star, Antares in the constellation Scorpius. Learn why this constellation is never in the sky with Orion.

Moon and Mars rise late on April 24

From mid-northern latitudes,look for the moon, Mars, Saturn and Antares in the south during the predawn hours, and more in the southwest sky at dawn. The green line depicts the ecliptic

On the night of April 24, the moon, Mars, Saturn and Antares are visible from around the world, rising in the east late at night. From mid-northern latitudes,look for them in the south before dawn. The green line depicts the ecliptic, or path of the sun. If you miss them tonight, look tomorrow night!

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 is a whirling double star

Classical illustration of the constellation Virgo the Maiden, via constellationsofwords.com.

Classical illustration of the constellation Virgo the Maiden, via constellationsofwords.com.

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.

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2016

Quadrantid meteor, caught just as the clouds were closing in, by Deb Kestler in Middletown, Rhode Island, January 4, 2016.

Quadrantid meteor, caught just as the clouds were closing in, by Deb Kestler in Middletown, Rhode Island, January 4, 2016.

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.