Celestial Navigator – April 2015

 April Stargazing and the Zodiacal Light

Tonight, or any night after sunset in this month of April 2015, people around the world will see the dazzling planet Venus in the western sky. Then … wait a bit zodiacal_light_600for the sky to get fully dark. After twilight ends, the elusive zodiacal light might appear in your western sky with Venus – if your sky is dark enough. For those living in the Northern Hemisphere, Venus can be your guide to the evening zodiacal light this month. This is a good time of year to see the zodiacal light in the evening from mid-northern latitudes.

As twilight ends, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, look for Venus in the midst of the mysterious zodiacal light – a cone of light jutting upward from the western horizon about 80 to 120 minutes after sunset.

April 13 – 18 – International Dark Sky Week. International Dark Sky Week is held during the week of the new moon in April. It is a week during which people worldwide turn out their outdoor lights in order to observe the wonders of the night sky without light pollution. It has been endorsed by the International Dark-Sky Association, the American Astronomical Society, the Astronomical League. So go ahead and turn out your outdoor lights this week to appreciate the beauty of the night sky!

April 18 – New Moon. The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 18:56 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint object such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

April 22, 23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. It peaks this year on the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight, leaving fairly dark skies for the what could be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

April 25 – International Astronomy Day. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium. You can also find more about Astronomy Day by checking the Web site for the Astronomical League.

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