2018-4-1 : What’s Up in the Sky in April 2018?

The Moon, Mars and Saturn form a pretty triangle in early April;  the Lyrid Meteors are visible in late April, peaking high overhead on the 22nd.

You won’t want to miss red Mars and golden Saturn in the South-southeast morning skies this month. Look towards Seattle.

Mars shines a little brighter than last month. By the 7th, the moon joins the pair. From a dark sky you may see some glow from our Milky Way galaxy. Of course our solar system is located within the galactic disk, about 26,000 light-years from the Galactic Center where a giant black hole has been identified. Our solar system (the sun and planets) lies in the inner edge of the Orion Arm, one of the spiral-shaped concentrations of gas and dust. We used to think the galaxy was like a spinning wheel (firework).

Now we know we see this spinning galactic “wheel” because we only “see” the visible light. But in fact the galaxy is a huge “dough-nut shaped” body – called a Torus.

This shape seems to apply to so many “objects” in the Universe no matter how large or how small.

Mid-month, start looking for Lyrid meteors, which are active from April 14 through the 30th. They peak on the 22nd.  The Lyrid meteors are the dusty trail of a comet with a centuries-long orbit around the sun.  As I like to remind the readers, the Earth passes through the tail every April.

In the very early morning sky, a patient observer will see up to more than a dozen meteors per hour in this medium-strength Lyrid shower.

A bright first quarter moon plays havoc with sky conditions, marring most of the typically faint Lyrid meteors. But Lyra will be high overhead after the moon sets at midnight,  so that’s the best time to look for Lyrids.

Did you know that people in the southern hemisphere see the moon “upside down”. So the man in the moon (the two eyes, nose and mouth) which is a
really pronounced “pareidolia” effect here in the north hemisphere, is much less obvious in Australia as our brains don’t create the compelling face when the moon is viewed upside down.

For a little fun on your phone or PC device I recommend you take a look at :

In-The-Sky.org

    The various “tabs” along the top show you :
  • A traditional circular overhead sky diagram with each constellation clearly displayed
  • The Planets with a simple paragraph per planet to help you enjoy the planetary news this month
  • Comets – a fine list of all comets in April 2018
  • Asteroids – a list of 200 rocky asteroids telling you when and where (and how bright) they are from Victoria

Through a telescope, Jupiter’s cloud belts and zones are easy to see. Watch the Great Red Spot transit–or cross– the visible (Earth-facing) disk of Jupiter every 8 hours.

The Juno spacecraft continues to orbit Jupiter. And Juno’s JunoCam citizen science team is creating exciting images of Jupiter’s features based on the latest spacecraft data.

Next month Jupiter is at opposition, when it rises at sunset, sets at sunrise, and offering great views for several months!

You can catch up on solar system missions to Jupiter (like Juno) and all of NASA’s missions at www.nasa.gov

Great website : In-The-Sky.org customized to Oak Bay

Dark Skies to all friends of Cattle Point Star Park.

Summary is from the transcript of “What’s Up in April 2018” by NASA announcer and astronomer Jane Houston Jones with specific permission for localization to Cattle Point DARK SKY Urban Star Park and the Oak Bay News.