Starwatch: April showers in night sky as wellUsually, we try to dodge April showers, but the one that arrives the morning of the 22nd may be worth seeking out.
By: Deane Morrison, University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, Lake County News Chronicle
Usually, we try to dodge April showers, but the one that arrives the morning of the 22nd may be worth seeking out.
That would be the Lyrid meteor shower, which peaks around 7 a.m. Trouble is, a bright waxing moon interferes until well past midnight, leaving meteor fans only a couple of hours between moonset and dawn. But if you do get out, this shower is predicted to be a fairly good one; meteors will radiate from high in the south, just west of the brilliant star Vega in the Summer Triangle.
April’s full moon was known to Algonquin Indians as the full pink moon, for the grass pink or wild ground phlox carpeting the meadows this time of year. .
But it, too, thumbs its nose at starwatchers by setting before we get to see it completely full. It disappears in the west around 5:28 a.m. on the 28th, just an hour and 40 minutes short of “full” glory. So again, we have to haul ourselves out of bed at an ungodly hour to get the most out of the occasion.
Other spectacles make no such demands on most people’s sleep schedules. Not to be missed is between the 16th and 18th Mars gliding just north of the lovely Beehive star cluster. High in the south-southwest at nightfall, Mars is easy to find southeast of the Gemini twins.
But use binoculars to appreciate the Beehive, which is also called Praesepe, or the manger. Framing the cluster are two starry companions called the Aselli, representing donkeys feeding at the manger.
Mars doesn’t stick around the Beehive, though. It keeps moving east against the background of stars toward Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.
Early evenings belong to Venus, which climbs a little higher in the west each night. During the first half of April, Mercury pops up for a visit. The speedy messenger of the gods appears to the lower right of much brighter Venus for only a few days, then drops out of sight by the 21st.