As we enter another month plagued with the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and numerous closures, we are in increasing need of good news and events that can safely jostle our spirits. For us at AY About You, there are few better than lifting a longing gaze up at the heavens.
Fortunately, the stars rarely disappoint — especially this month.
This month features local astrophotography from Arkansan Tony Milligan. You can find more of his spectacular photos on his website, Captured in Time.
First Quarter: April 1
Full Moon: April 7*
Third Quarter: April 14
New Moon: April 22
First Quarter: April 30
The full moon of April is a Super Moon and what is known as the Pink Moon. Super because it will be closer to earth and thus appear larger and brighter in our sky this month, Pink in reference to the pink-colored flowers that begin to bloom in springtime.
Lyrids Meteor Shower
Peak Night(s): 4/22, 23
The Lyrids Meteor Shower will bring some additional luminance to our skies this month, raining down about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. The Lyrids shower is made of dust grains from comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, discovered in 1861. The shower technically spans from April 16-25, but the nights of the 22 and 23 will produce the most vibrant show. This peak also pairs perfectly with the New Moon, meaning the shooting stars will not be competing with the Moon’s light, thus giving us more chances to make wishes.
Planets and Special Events
April 14: Close Approach of the Moon, Jupiter and Pluto
The Moon, Jupiter and Pluto will each pass within 2 degrees of each other in our night sky this month. Jupiter and the Moon’s connection will be visible with the naked eye, but picking out Pluto will require a good pair of binoculars or an average telescope. Look to the constellation Sagittarius in the early morning/dawn hours.
April 15: Close Approach of the Moon and Saturn
Not to be outdone, Saturn will get its chance in the spotlight with the moon just one night after the aforementioned trio. The pair will reach within 3 degrees of each other on April 15, in the constellation Capricornus in the early morning sky.
The month of April is being called “The Month of Venus” by space.com, and it is hard to disagree with the news site — it is arguably the most prominent planet in the night sky this month. Not only will our neighbor reach its peak magnitude (brightness) for the entire year on April 27, but it will also have an interesting close encounter with the Pleiades star cluster on April 3, something that only happens every eight years.
In the News
SunRISE aims to help scientists understand the complex relationship between the sun’s activity and a host of dangerous phenomena around Earth called space weather. The mission selection comes amid a burst of solar science and an emphasis on missions that incorporate space-weather prediction into plans for human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit.
No public events this month. Stay home. Stay safe. Stay well.
Beyond Arkansas, this month brings us International Dark Sky Week, from April 19-26. The International Dark-Sky Association is encouraging homebound families to “look up together” during this period of social distancing. The timing could not be more perfect for worthwhile participation, as the peak nights of the Lyrids meteor shower fall right in the middle of this special week.
If you’re still itching for more space to curb your boredom this month, give Celestia and Stellarium a try. Both are free to use and provide unique and interactive experiences with the stars, planets and more.
The best stargazing results are always going to be under the darkest of skies. So, if you can, find a place as far away from city lights as possible when checking out April’s night sky.