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Tonight

Look for moon and Venus before dawn on April 25

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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.

Star of the week: Spica is a whirling double star

Daniel McVey captured this image of planet Mars and star Spica on March 26, 2014.

Daniel McVey captured this image of planet Mars and star Spica on March 26, 2014.

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 2014

Mike O'Neal posted this on the EarthSky Facebook page today (April 22).  He wrote, 'Had mostly cloudy sky, but did see some beautiful ones between the breaks.'

Mike O’Neal posted this shot of a Lyrid meteor on the EarthSky Facebook page at last year’s shower, on April 22, 2013. He wrote, ‘Had mostly cloudy sky, but did see some beautiful ones between the breaks.’

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.

Everything you need to know: Eta Aquarid meteor shower

Photo by Justin Ng

Eta Aquarid meteor in the 2013 shower over Mount Bromo, an active volcano in Indonesia. Photo by Justin Ng in Singapore.

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.

Star-hop from Leo to the Coma star cluster

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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.

M13: Great Cluster in Hercules

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.

Find the constellation Hercules. Maybe more Lyrid meteors?

The bright stars Vega in the constellation Lyra and Arcturus in the constellation Bootes are located on either side of Hercules.

The bright stars Vega in the constellation Lyra and Arcturus in the constellation Bootes are located on either side of Hercules.

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.

Everything you need to know: Lyrid meteor shower

View larger. | Simon Waldram in the Canary Islands caught this Lyrid meteor on the night of April 20-21, 2014.  Thank you, Simon!

Simon Waldram in the Canary Islands caught this Lyrid meteor on the night of April 20-21, 2014. Thank you, Simon!

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!

Lyrid meteors fly in predawn moonlight on April 22

Lyrid meteor (left side of photo) and star trails from EarthSky Facebook friend Sean Parker Photography.  Visit Sean's Facebook page to see more of his photos.  View larger.

View larger. | Lyrid meteor (left side of photo) and star trails from Sean Parker Photography.

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.

EarthSky’s top 10 tips for meteor-watchers

From EarthSky Facebook friend Guy Livesay. He wrote, ' Didn't see many Lyrids on the 21st or 22nd in Eastern NC. This is from the 21st. There's actually 2 in this shot very close together.'

From EarthSky Facebook friend Guy Livesay, taken in April 2013. He wrote, ‘Didn’t see many Lyrids on the 21st or 22nd in Eastern NC. This is from the 21st. There’s actually 2 in this shot very close together.’


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.