This column was provided by San Benito resident and amateur astronomer David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.
Well, I think the gods have made it official now; they want the skies for themselves. For neither God, father time, or mother nature, who ever is in charge of the weather, want us to be avid astronomers. If they did, they wouldn’t have clouded up the most important planned evenings of the month for us.
I somehow picture the three of them being perched up high above looking down on us and that maybe they just want the wonders the night skies for themselves. Otherwise, they certainly would be giving us better skies more often. Or maybe they just like to play a good joke on us now and then, getting us all flustered.
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 (see my March article on the Messier Marathon) it clouds up and we miss everything. All we can do is try to be more patient, I guess, and wait till 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. OK gods; you win this time.
While you are waiting for the Messier Marathon check out the V shape in the constellation Taurus the Bull and Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters or Milk Dipper. Both 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, and just below the belt in Orion’s sword you will find the most spectacular nebula in the 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, knowing I won’t get another glimpse of this spectacular nebula until next winter.
The morning of March 22 you have another 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 15 meteors per hour). Your best look will be in the predawn hours of the 22.
Look toward the tiny constellation of Lyra, that is where the showers will radiant from. Yes, that means you will have to take out your astronomy books/internet to find Lyra’s location and get up early that morning to see them, around 3 a.m. is the best time.
That shouldn’t hurt you any, be strong.
As far as myself, you won’t catch me getting up that early. I’m more likely to stay up until 3am than get up at that time of the morning. Although, you can still enjoy this event in the early evening just after the skies darken up some. You just won’t see as many meteors as you would freezing in the early morning hours.
Sounds inviting, doesn’t it?
So, take the precious time and show your family, a friend, or just yourself what is available in the skies this month. You won’t be disappointed, nor will anyone else you show.
Searching the skies April 2022
April 4: Mars passes 0.3° south of Saturn
April 6: Moon passes 0.2° south of Dwarf planet Ceres
April 7: Moon is a apogee (251,306 miles from Earth)
April 9: First Quarter Moon.
April 12: Jupiter passes 0.1° north of Neptune