This Month’s Sky – April 2014

AAA Observers’ April Guide

April’s Evening Planets: Jupiter is viewed in Gemini the Twins until around 2:00 a.m., getting lower in the sky each night. Mars will be in
Virgo the Maiden all night. Saturn rises around 10 p.m., close to Libra the Scales, and lingers until early morning.

April’s Evening Stars: Spot Sirius, the brightest star viewed from Earth in Canis Major the Great Dog. Betelgeuse and blue-white Rigel in
Orion will be up until around midnight. Capella in Auriga the Charioteer will shine in the early night. Also the stars of constellations Gemini, Taurus, Cancer, Leo, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Perseus, Draco, Virgo, and the two Dippers could be viewed.

April’s Morning Planets: Venus rises in Aquarius the Water Bearer, from 4:30 a.m./early month to 4:00 a.m./late month. Blue Neptune will be close to Venus in the early morn-ing. Mars and Saturn both linger in the early morning sky for all of March. Mini planet Pluto could be seen early morning in Sagittarius the Archer.

April’s Morning Stars: At 2:00 a.m., spot the Summer Triangle of Vega in Lyra the Harp, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle. The Triangle will be up earlier every night. Spot Spica in Virgo the Maiden, Arcturus in Boötes the Herdsman, and the stars of
Sagittarius the Archer, Libra the Scales, and Scorpio the Scorpion.

April’s “Skylights”

April 3 Waxing Moon in Hyades cluster
April 6 Moon is 5° south of Jupiter
April 7 First Quarter Moon at 4:30 a.m.
April 8 Mars at opposition, rising at maximum brightness at sunset. Moon is at apogee at 12:53 p.m.(EST) (251,346 miles from Earth)
April 12 Venus 0.75 ° North of Neptune (Dawn)
April 14 Mars Closest to Earth (57.41 million miles)
April 15 Full Moon at 3:42 a.m.(EST)
April 16 Moon is 1° south of Saturn
April 22 Lyrids Meteor Shower peaks before dawn. Last Quarter Moon at 3:53 a.m.(EST)
April 23 Moon is at perigee at 10:28 p.m.(EST) (229,761 miles from Earth)
April 25 Moon is 4° north of Venus at dawn
April 29 New Moon at 2:17 a.m.(EST)

Night Sky Highlights
Lyrids Meteor Shower Peaks April 21-22

Lyrid is a moderate meteor shower, but the meteors tend to be bright and often leave luminous trails of dust that can be observed for a few seconds. It can produce an observed rate of 10-20 shooting stars per hour.
The best viewing is Apr 22, from 2:00 a.m. until morning. The Moon rises around 2:00 a.m., reducing the number of visible meteors. Nights before and after the peak will have a similar num-ber of visible meteors.
You will be able to view shooting stars from the Lyrid meteor shower between April 17-26. Look for an clear spot in the sky, away from light pollution. This is a naked eye event, so there is no need for telescopes. If you live in New York City, the number of viewed meteors will drop to one-third.
The meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Lyra the Harp, and are associated with comet Thatcher, which takes 415 years to orbit the Sun. The Lyrid meteor shower has been observed for over 2,700 years. Chinese records recount that the “stars fell like rain” during the shower of 687 BC. To-day, however, Lyrid showers are mostly weaker.

The Tale of Orpheus and Eurydice

In Greek mythology, Orpheus played his harp and sang songs to his wife, Eurydice. The music was so sweet that ani-mals of the woods stood still to listen, and plants and stones were charmed. Orpheus and Eurydice lived a happy life until the day she was chased by a satyr, fell, and was fatally bitten by a snake. Orpheus found her lifeless body and wept. Orpheus went to Hades, god of the Underworld to ask him to release his wife. On the way, he played the harp to soothe his heart and Hades was touched. When Orpheus saw this, he stopped. Hades asked for more, prom-ising to release his wife in return, but had one other condition – on his journey back to the world above, he must play the harp along the way, while his wife follows. If he looked back, she would be sent to the Underworld again. Orpheus played, listening to footsteps behind him. Pass-ing through a pine forest, the sound stopped. Glancing over his shoulder to see if she was following, she disappeared forever. Orpheus played sad music for the rest of his life. Zeus, the king of gods, placed the constellation Lyra the Harp in the skies to honor his music and love for Eurydice. Look for bright star Vega in the spring/summer sky, and you will find Lyra.