This article was contributed by David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.
Well, I think it is official now. Neither God, the Weatherman, nor Mother Nature, could be considered an avid astronomer. If they were they wouldn’t have clouded up the most important planned evenings of the month for us (us meaning the band of four locals who want to be astronomers). I somehow picture them being perched up so high above looking down on us that maybe they just can’t see all the wonders in our heavens for themselves, or don’t even know they exist. For if they did they certainly would be giving us better skies more often. Or maybe they just like a good joke now and then getting us all flustered. You think?
Well, I don’t know what it is, but it does seem that every time we plan on going out on a special night and do some serious star gazing it clouds up and we miss everything. All we can do is try to be more patient, I guess, and wait until it clears up for the next time. It will happen you know. I believe it just makes us more appreciative when it does clear up.
Next time you are out searching the skies try to find the “V” shape in the constellation “Taurus the Bull,” we covered the bull and Orion in February. This month the bull lies just to the right of Mars. Yes, Mars is still up, you can also get a good look at “Pleiades,” also known as the “Seven Sisters” or “Milk Dipper.” Both Taurus and the Pleiades are two of the easiest open clusters you can find with the naked eye. And if you do anything at all this month make sure you take a good look at the constellation “Orion” before it disappears for the year. Just locate the three bright stars forming Orion’s belt just to the south of Mars. And just below the belt, in Orion’s sword, you will find the most spectacular Nebula in our visual heavens, called “Orion’s Nebula.” You will need at least a good pair of binoculars to appreciate it. But if you have a telescope of any size you are in for a beautiful sight. I find myself admiring this Nebula every time I go out at night during the winter with my scope. And I seem to feel a little sad when it goes down below the horizon for the last time for the season, knowing I won’t get another glimpse of this spectacular Nebula until next winter, unless I want to get up in the wee hours of the morning to catch a glimpse of it then.
Speaking of early morning rise, this month on the morning of the 22nd you have a chance to see a moderate meteor shower, the “Lyrids.” It certainly won’t be as spectacular as the “Leonid” showers but should put up some good numbers (10 to 18 per hour). Your best look will be in the predawn hours of the 22nd. Just look toward the tiny constellation of “Lyra,” that is where the showers will radiate from. Yes, that means you will have to take out your astronomy books to find Lyra’s location and get up early that morning to see them. That shouldn’t hurt you any, but if it does, just remember that early morning is the best time to look for a maximum number of showers. Of course you can see them in the evening as well, just not as many. And not just on the 22nd either, for the annual “Lyrid” showers is active from April 14th to the 30th and peaks the morning of April 22nd.
So take the precious time and show your family, a friend, or just yourself what is available in the skies at dawn or dust this month. You won’t be discouraged, nor will anyone else you show.
What’s up there this month?
April 4; Moon at Last Quarter
April 6: Moon is 4° south of Saturn
April 7: Moon is 4° south of Jupiter
April 9: Moon is 4° south of Neptune
April 11: New Moon
April 13: Moon is 2° south of Uranus
April 14: Moon is at apogee (252,351 miles from Earth)