This Month’s Sky – April 2017


What’s Up in the Sky
AAA Observers’ April Guide
By Tony Faddoul

April’s Evening Planets: Mercury will be in in Pisces the Fish until around 8 PM during the first half of the month. Mars is between Aries the Ram and Taurus the Bull until about 10 PM. Jupiter will be in Virgo the Maiden all night.

April’s Evening Stars: The Winter Triangle will be up until around 10 PM: Sirius, the brightest star viewed from Earth, is in Canis Major the Great Dog, Betelgeuse is in Ori-on the Hunter, and Procyon is in Canis Minor the Small Dog. Spot Capella in Auriga the Charioteer, Arcturus in Boötes the Herdsman, Spica in Virgo, and bright Castor and Pollux in Gemini the Twins. Also find the stars of constellations Cas-siopeia, Hercules, Perseus, Draco, Virgo, Leo, Libra, and Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (the Big and Little Dippers).

April’s Morning Planets: Venus will be in Pisces un-til around 5 AM. Jupiter will be in Virgo until sunrise. Sat-urn is found in Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer after 2 AM and until sunrise, rising earlier every night, by midnight at the end of April. Neptune is in Aquarius the Water bearer as of 4 AM in the second half of the month.

April’s Morning Stars: Spot the Summer Triangle of Vega in Lyra the Harp, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, and Al-tair in Aquila the Eagle as of 2 AM, and earlier every night. Look for reddish Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion, Arcturus in Boötes, and Spica in Virgo, along with the stars of constel-lations Leo, Hercules, Ophiuchus, Libra, Cassiopeia Pegasus, Draco, and the two Dippers.

April “Skylights”
Apr 3 First Quarter Moon at 2:40 PM
Apr 7 Jupiter at opposition, its brightest in 2017
Apr 8 Jupiter at its closest to Earth in 2017
Apr 11 Full Moon at 2:08 AM
Apr 15 Moon at apogee (251,950 miles away)
Apr 19 Last quarter Moon at 5:55 AM
Apr 23 Lyrid meteor shower peaks-dawn
Apr 26 Full Moon – Super Moon at 8:15 AM
Apr 27 Moon at perigee (223,300 miles away)
Apr 28 Mars is 6° north of Moon pre-dawn
Apr 29 Venus at its brightest

Ancient Ideas About The Dippers?

The constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor are easily identified in the sky by their bright stars, which form the aster-isms known in North America today as the Big and Little Dip-pers. (The Big Dip-per goes by “The Plough” in Ireland and the U.K.) They surround the North Star, Polaris, which is the seventh star of the Little Dipper. Approximately aligned with Earth’s axis of rotation, Polaris and the Dippers are visible year-round in the Northern hemisphere. Constant companions, they have been observed and mythologized since Ancient times.

Bears and Hunters

In Greco-Roman mythology, Zeus, the king of gods, loved the nymph Callisto and tried to hide her from his wife, Hera, changing her into a bear. Callisto’s son, Actas, was hunting one day and came across his mother in the form of bear. Actas killed the bear only to find out later it was his mother. Zeus placed them together into the sky as the constellations Ursa Major the Great Bear and Ursa Minor the Little Bear.

According to Iroquois myth, hunters were chasing a bear through the forest one day and ran into three giants. The giants attacked and killed all except three of the hunters. These survivors and the bear were transported into the sky, where the chase continues. The bear is formed by the four stars in the cup of the Big Dipper, and the hunters are represented by three stars in the ladle.

The Balance of Fate

Called Bei Dou in China, the Northern Dipper represents a red faced god who determines death and plays chess with the Southern Dipper. It determines people’s fate and transports the faithful to heaven.

Wagons and Chariots

In Norse mythology, the Hellewagen, or the wagon of the dead, travels upon Frauen Hilde Street (the Milky Way) on its way to the underworld. The Little Dipper was believed to be Thor’s chariot or throne.

Germanic peoples also called the Big Dipper a wagon, while Early English believed it was King Arthur’s Chariot circling the pole, and Early Irish called it King David’s Chariot.

The Coffin

Ancient Arabians saw the Big Dipper as a coffin followed by mourners, sons of the deceased, who seek vengeance against the pole star, responsible for murdering their father.

The Seven Statesmen

For Ancient Hindus, the stars of the Big Dipper are the Saptarishi, Seven Sages, or Rishi, who cause the Sun to rise and shine.