Tonight – April 24, 2015 – the rather wide waxing crescent moon passes in front of the constellation Gemini the Twins. The two brightest stars in Gemini are Castor and Pollux. The other bright star on the other side of the moon is Procyon, the brightest in Canis Minor the Lesser Dog. The king planet Jupiter, which outshines all these bright stars, lies to the east of tonight’s moon. Look for the moon to be closer to Jupiter tomorrow night, April 25.
Tonight – April 23, 2015 – look for the moon and Winter Circle stars. Jupiter and Venus are also nearby. As seen from North America, the moon is inside the Circle. From other parts of the world, the moon will be near these stars. By the way, the planet Mercury is coming back to the evening sky. At the bottom of this post, we have a binocular challenge for you at nightfall: Planet Mercury and the Pleiades star cluster!
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.
By the night of April 22-23, the 2014 Lyrid meteor shower is picking up steam. It offers about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. The maximum number of Lyrid meteors may well rain down during the predawn hours on April 23. 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.
Tonight – April 21, 2015 – look westward as darkness falls for the beautiful waxing crescent moon and bright planet Venus. They will dominate the western sky shortly after the sun goes down. As night passes, and Earth spins under the sky, the moon and Venus will soon follow the sun below the western horizon, leaving the sky dark for the 2015 Lyrid meteor shower. Follow the links inside to learn more.
The Lyrid meteor shower is active each year from about April 16-25, and we’re now approaching the peak of this shower. The peak night for the Lyrid meteor shower will probably fall on the mornings of April 22 and 23. This modest shower often offers no more than 10 to 20 meteors per hour at its peak, but it has been known to have bursts of activity that could dazzle you. Fortunately, the waxing crescent moon will be setting at early evening, guaranteeing a dark sky for meteor watching. Watch from late night until dawn.
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 this week’s Lyrid meteor shower … or any meteor shower.
Yay! It’s almost meteor season again. After the Quadrantid meteor shower in early January each year, we have a lull in meteor shower activity. No major showers happen between early January and the second half of April, when the Lyrid meteor shower will have its peak. Follow the links inside to learn more about the Lyrids and to learn what to expect for meteor showers over the coming months.
The Lyrids offers 10 to 20 meteors per hour at its peak on a moonless night. In 2015, the peak is expected the mornings of April 22 or 23, with the nod going to April 23. A waxing crescent moon will set in the evening on the days around the Lyrids’ peak, leaving a dark for watching meteors. Awesome Lyrid prospects this year!