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 below to learn more:
Lyrid meteors still possible on night of April 22-23. Most meteor showers are best after midnight, and the Lyrid meteor shower – going on now – is no exception. By the evening of April 22, the peak has passed, but you might still see some Lyrid meteors late at night on April 22, or before dawn April 23. This possibility is especially attractive since the moon is now waning. You’ll find a thinner moon rising later tonight, leaving more darkness for meteor watching.
Use two bright stars to find constellation Hercules. The chart at the top of this post shows the sky for around 9 to 10 p.m. local time, when the constellation Hercules, and the two bright stars so essential for finding it, are well up in the northeastern to eastern sky.
The stars are Arcturus in the constellation Bootes and Vega in the constellation Lyra. A line between them passes through what is known as the Keystone in the constellation Hercules.
The Keystone in Hercules is a squarish figure in the center of the constellation. This sky pattern is an asterism, or noticeable pattern within a larger constellation.
The Keystone is a helpful pattern for more reasons than one. First, it’s noticeable on the sky’s dome, so can lead your eye to Hercules.
Also, the Keystone in Hercules can help you find the most fascinating telescopic object within the boundaries of this constellation. This object is a globular star cluster known to stargazers as M13 or the Great Cluster in Hercules. It’s barely visible the eye alone in the darkest of skies.
Binoculars show M13 as a nebulous star-like patch of light. And telescopes show stars both on the periphery of the cluster and toward its center.
This beautiful object is one of the galaxy’s oldest inhabitants. It’s a tightly packed spherical collection of about one million stars.
Bottom line: Use the brilliant stars Arcturus and Vega to find the constellation Hercules tonight! Plus keep watching for meteors in the annual Lyrid shower. Moonlight will interfere in the early morning hours, but even one bright meteor streaking along in bright moonlight is a treat.