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Tonight

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.

See daytime moon late April 2016

Buddy Puckhaper in Charleston, South Carolina, contributed the image at top, of a daytime moon.

Buddy Puckhaper in Charleston, South Carolina, contributed this image of a daytime moon.

Tonight – April 23, 2016 – the moon is in a waning gibbous phase. That means it rises in the east later than it did last night. And it will rise later and later each evening … so that you can catch the daytime moon over your western horizon after sunrise in the next few mornings.

Smallest full moon of 2016 on April 22

Curtis Beaird in south Georgia captured this shot.

Curtis Beaird in south Georgia posted this shot to EarthSky Facebook.

Tonight – April 22, 2016 – it’s the farthest full moon, and smallest full moon, of the year. We’ve heard it called the micro-moon or mini-moon. This full moon is less than one day from lunar apogee, the moon’s farthest point in its monthly orbit.

Lyrid meteor shower peaks in moonlight

Manoj Kesavan caught this meteor in moonlight on the morning of April 16, as the Lyrid shower was just beginning. He was in Tongariro National Park in New Zealand. He wrote:

Manoj Kesavan caught this meteor in moonlight on the morning of April 16, 2016, as the Lyrid shower was just beginning. He was in Tongariro National Park in New Zealand. He wrote: “I have seen the Milky Way rising over the volcanic complex at various seasons and moon phases. Have shot timelapes and star trails on the volcanic valley which was glacially carved out during the last ice age. This particular one is lit by almost 50% moonlight … this scene never gets old for me!”

The bright moon (with star Spica nearby) will be out all night long, to subdue the Lyrid meteor shower at its expected peak. The most Lyrid meteors are expected to fly in the few hours before dawn April 22, but the light of the full moon is sure to wash out all but the brightest.

Northerners’ guide to Southern Cross

The Southern Cross, aka Crux, via AlltheSky.com

The Southern Cross, aka Crux, via AlltheSky.com

From the N. Hemisphere, you have to be as far south as Hawaii, or south Florida or Texas – about 26 degrees N. latitude or further south – to see the Southern Cross.

Vega marks Lyrid meteor radiant point

The radiant point for the yearly Lyrid meteor shower is near Vega, brightest star in the constellation Lyra the Harp.

By the night of April 20-21, the 2016 Lyrid meteor shower is picking up steam, though under the drenching moonlight of the almost-full waxing gibbous moon.. The shower radiates from a point just to the right of the beautiful blue-white star Vega, which is the brightest light in the constellation Lyra the Harp.

Moonlit skies to subdue 2016 Lyrid meteors

Composite image of Lyrid and no-Lyrid meteors over New Mexico from April 21-23, 2012. Image via NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser.

The Lyrid meteor shower is active each year from about April 16-25, and we’re now approaching the peak of this shower for 2016, though under the light of the waxing gibbous moon. The peak night for the Lyrids will probably fall on the night of April 21-22 (late night April 21 to dawn April 22) – the same night as the April 2016 full moon!

Use Orion’s Belt to find Mercury

Ken Christison posted this lovely photo to EarthSky Facebook on April 6, 2016. He wrote:

Ken Christison posted this lovely photo to EarthSky Facebook on April 6, 2016. Thanks, Ken!

Tonight, look in early evening for the famous constellation Orion the Hunter, now about to disappear for another season. It can help you find the planet Mercury, which is one of the five bright planets, but an elusive planet because it always stays near the sunset or sunrise in our sky.

Moon and Jupiter close Sunday night!

If you've been watching the moon for the last several images, you might discern its eastward movement relative to the star Regulus and the planet Jupiter.

If you’ve been watching the moon for the last several nights, you might have discerned its eastward movement relative to the star Regulus and planet Jupiter. That motion on our sky’s dome is due to the moon’s actual motion in orbit around Earth.

Whether you enjoy the simple beauty of Kepler’s third law or the visual beauty of the heavens – or both – let the waxing gibbous moon be your guide to the planet Jupiter tonight!

Moon, Regulus, Jupiter on April 16

2016-april-16-moon-jupiter-regulus

Tonight – April 16, 2016 – as darkness falls around the world, the star Regulus, brightest light in the constellation Leo the Lion, appears near the moon. Although Regulus rates as a 1st-magnitude star, you might have difficulty spotting Regulus in the moon’s glare tonight. Just don’t mistake the planet Jupiter, the much-brighter star-like point of light to the east of tonight’s moon, for Regulus. Jupiter is brighter! Plus Jupiter is a planet and shines steadily. Regulus, a star, twinkles.