Friday, April 8, 2011

April 2011

April showers might just cloud your view of the night sky this month, but there are some interesting things worth waiting with an umbrella for holes in the clouds to see.

The month begins with a new moon on the 3rd and a full moon on the 17th.

Last month saw an unprecedented number of massive sun spots, and we can expect to have a few at the beginning of the month. There is no immediate threat of big solar flares, though.

As far as meteors go, the Lyrids will visit us on the 21st and 22nd of the month, but it will probably only yield a medium-sized show. Bright and quick, these short-lived dust grains come from comet C/Thatcher, and enter our atmosphere at 29.8 miles per second. Too bad the moon will almost be full; its light should obscure most of the view.

If you are into constellation-gazing, you can expect to see Vela, the sail of the Argo, just over the southern horizon. A very dim Hydra is just below Leo and Cancer, and Ursa Major will dominate the northern skies this month.

If you are out to spot a particular star, we recommend finding Leo’s alpha star Regulus, star of kings, and heaven’s guardian. A binary star system of three stars lying 72 light years away, Regulus is a blue dwarf of spectral class B7 V.

Last but not least, Saturn is back in view, northwest of the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo. Venus will be the morning star for only a little longer, rising just ahead of the sun. And right before sunrise, Mars will make a brief appearance in the east.
For more information or for tips on star gazing, call 229-432-6955.

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