April 2018

• April 4th, 2018

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         Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, or get my podcast feed on Stitcher, or iTunes.

April brings us plenty of Jupiter time, a close encounter between Mars and Saturn, and a potentially decent Lyrid meteor shower. And MAYBE some better weather.

Naked-eye PLANETS...

  • Around Sunset – Venus (W)
  • Throughout the night – Jupiter (EàW)
  • Morning – Satur (E) , Mars (E), Jupiter (W)

Mercury

  • Not really worth looking for. In between us and the Sun most of the month.

Venus

  • Venus makes significant progress up the sky this month, getting to about 25˚ by month’s end at sunset. Look West and find the brightest source of light in that direction, about two fist-widths above the horizon.

Mars

  • Rises between 2am and 3am. Look SSE around sunrise and find the red object near Saturn, in Sagittarius.

Saturn

  • Rises around 3am at the beginning of the month and 1am at the end. Look about 20˚ above the SSE horizon, to the left and down from Mars and at the top of Sagittarius.

Jupiter

  • Rises around 11pm in early April, 9pm in late April, in the ESE. Moves across the sky throughout the night, hanging out right in the middle of Libra.

 

EVENTS...

2nd Close EncounterMars & Saturn – Find the teapot of Sagittarius and also find bright caramel-colored Saturn and ruddy red Mars less than 1˚ apart, with Mars below Saturn.

7th Close EncounterMoon, Mars, Saturn – Find the Moon after 2:30am and you’ll also find Saturn 2˚ below and to the left, and Mars 2˚ below and to the left of that.

Last Quarter Moon – 8th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

New Moon – 15th (darkest skies) 

17th - Close EncounterMoon, Venus – Look West after sunset for bright Venus with a very thin crescent Moon just 5˚ to the left.

22nd LYRID METEOR SHOWER – Not the strongest shower, at only 10-20 meteors per hour, but the Moon will be a First Quarter, so look North in general after midnight and into the morning. 

Some advice for watching:

Find a dark location and lie down in a reclining chair or something that insulates you from the ground.

Check the weather to see if the skies will be clear

Adapt your eyes to the dark by staying away from light sources or using a red light if you need to look at a star chart or not trip over something. 

If you’re feeling extra nerdy, do a scientific meteor count (S&T and IMO)

Or find out if your local astronomy club or museum is holding a viewing party.

First Quarter Moon – 22nd (Visible until midnight)

Full Moon – 29th (Visible all night)

30th Close EncounterMoon, Jupiter – Find the Moon after 9:30pm and you’ll also find Jupiter about 5˚ to the right, both within Libra.

 

CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

After Sunset (sunset is around 7:30-8:00pm) – Cancer, Leo, Lynx, Ursa Major’s legs - Extra Challenge! Find M44 in the middle of Cancer – an open cluster of stars also known as the Beehive Cluster.  You may be able to see it as a small fuzzy patch with your naked eye if you have very dark skies.  However, with a pair of binoculars or a telescope on low power, it will look like a hive of bees in the distance, hence its nickname.

Between Sunset and Midnight – Leo, Leo Minor, Ursa Major’s legs

Midnight – Canes Venatici, Coma Berenices are closer to the Zenith (the point straight above you), but Ursa Major, Leo, and Bootes make a nice but bigger triangle around it.

Early Morning – Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus – These are the Summer constellations, and since they are starting to rise in the morning now, that means that summer is on its way.

GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS: 

Winter constellations:  LAST CHANCE FOR THE WINTER CONSTELLATIONS! Orion is still easy to spot as he is directly in the SW after sunset.  You can use Orion to find many other winter constellations, for the last time until the fall.

Using Orion:  Find Orion by looking for the three stars in a row that make up Orion’s belt in the Southwest.  If you draw a line from the left star to the right star and keep going right about 20 degrees (about 2 fists at arm’s length) until you reach another very bright star, you will have reached the star Aldebaran in Taurus (the V).  Follow that line a little more (about another fist) and you’ll find the Pleiades.

If you start at his belt again, but instead go the opposite way and draw a line from the right star in Orion’s belt to the left star, and keep going left about 20 degrees (2 fists again), you’ll come to the brightest star in the sky – Sirius – part of Canis Major.

Above these three constellations are Gemini and Auriga.  The brightest stars in each of these constellations form a circle in the sky.  Going clockwise - Aldebaron (Taurus) – Rigel (Orion – bottom right foot) – Sirius (Canis Major) – Procyon (Canis Minor) – Castor & Pollux (Gemini) – Capella (Auriga).  It makes for great stargazing in the winter sky.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

 

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March 2018

• March 4th, 2018

Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, or get my podcast feed on Stitcher, or iTunes.

March is mostly uneventful for beginner’s stargazing, but take advantage of the month-long line up of Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter in the mornings in the East, with the Moon stopping by from the 7th to the 13th.  Should make for some good pictures.

 

Naked-eye PLANETS...

  • Around Sunset – Mercury, Venus (W)
  • Throughout the night – Jupiter (EàS)
  • Morning – Saturn, Mars, Jupiter (S)

Mercury

  • Best to look during the 3rd week of March for Mercury, as it is the highest in the sky at this time, about 15˚ above the horizon, and right in the vicinity of Venus in the West right after sunset.

Venus

  • Venus changes from about 10˚ to 15˚above the Sun this month. Look West after sunset and find the brightest source of light in that direction, only about a fist-width above the horizon.

Mars

  • Rises by 2:30am. Look South around sunrise and find the red object between Jupiter and Saturn, getting closer to Saturn throughout the month, about 25˚ above the southern horizon.

Saturn

  • Rises around 4:15am at the beginning of the month and 1:45am at the end. Look about 20˚ above the SSE horizon, to the left and down from Mars and at the top of Sagittarius.

Jupiter

  • Rises around midnight in early March, 10pm in late March, in the ESE. Reaches about 30˚ above the S horizon at sunrise, hanging out right in the middle of Libra.

 

EVENTS...

 

Full Moon – 2nd (Visible all night)

 

Last Quarter Moon – 9th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

 

6th – 12thMorning Close Encounter Week – Moon, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn – The second month with the Moon making its way through the planets. All week, if you get up after 3:00am, you’ll see all three planets, with the Moon traveling through day to day. Jupiter will consistently be the brightest planet about 30˚ up in the South, with Mars about 30˚ down and to the left, and Saturn about 15˚ down and to the left of that.

       6th – The Waning Gibbous Moon lines up to the right of the planets

7th – The Moon will be about 3˚ above Jupiter

       8th – The Moon will be almost right in the middle between Jupiter and Mars

       9th – A Third Quarter Moon will be about 8˚ up and to the right of Mars

       10th – A Waning Crescent Moon will be almost right in the middle between Mars and Saturn

       11th – A beautiful crescent Moon will be just 4˚ to the left of Saturn

       12th – A very thin crescent Moon will form a nice line of objects, with the Moon visible as early as 4am, with Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter finishing the lineup up and to the right.

 

11th – Daylight Savings Time Begins at 2am

 

New Moon – 17th (darkest skies)  

 

18th - Close Encounter – If you can get a stellar view of the western horizon, and probably some binoculars, you might catch a VERY thin crescent Moon, Venus, and Mercury lining up from left to right in the sunset sky before they set around 7:05pm.

 

20th - Spring Equinox - Astronomically the first day of Spring, even though meteorologically Spring starts in the beginning of March.  Here’s some more info.

 

First Quarter Moon – 24th (Visible until midnight)

 

Full Moon – 31st (Visible all night)

 

 

CONSTELLATIONS... STRAIGHT UP

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to visually help you out.

If you’re looking straight up above you…

  • After Sunset (sunset is around 6:30-7:30pm) – Auriga (Taurus is right nearby), Gemini
  • Between Sunset and Midnight – Cancer, Gemini, Lynx, and Leo later in the month
  • Midnight – Leo, Leo Minor, Ursa Major’s legs
  • Early Morning – Corona Borealis, Hercules, Boötes (you can also find the Big Dipper’s handle, and starting from the inside of the handle, follow the arc that those four stars make past the last star in the handle about 30˚ or three fist-widths to the next very bright star you find which is Arcturus, the base of the constellation Boötes. Hence astronomers use the phrase “Follow the Arc to Arcturus”)

 

SEASONAL CONSTELLATIONS: 

Winter: Orion is easy to spot as he is high in the south as the Sun sets.  You can use Orion to find many other winter constellations.

  • Taurus, Pleiades: Find Orion by looking for the three stars in a row that make up Orion’s belt in the East after sunset.  If you draw a line from the left (bottom) star to the right (top) star and keep going right about 20 degrees (about 2 fists at arm’s length) until you reach another very bright star, you will have reached the star Aldebaron in Taurus (the V).  Follow that line a little more (about another fist) and you’ll find the Pleiades.
  • Canis Major: Draw a line from the right (top) star in Orion’s belt to the left (bottom) star, and keep going left about 20 degrees (2 fists again), you’ll come to the brightest star in the sky – Sirius – part of Canis Major.
  • Gemini, Auriga: Above these three constellations are Gemini and Auriga.  The brightest stars in each of these constellations form a circle in the sky.  Going clockwise - Aldebaron (Taurus) – Rigel (Orion – bottom right foot) – Sirius (Canis Major) – Procyon (Canis Minor) – Castor & Pollux (Gemini) – Capella (Auriga).  It makes for great stargazing in the winter sky.
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