April 1, 2015
The Night Sky:
A New Evening Star And A Meteor Shower For April
By GERRY LEBING
proved tough for astrophotography on Hatteras Island. Much of it
was cold and cloudy. I can remember only one or two clear
nights, so much of my observing was done trying to see through a
slightly overcast sky. But I did get some very good views
of the night skies!
APRIL SKY WATCHING
greets us with a new evening star. On April 1, the Sun sets at 7:23
p.m., and Arcturus rises at 7:37. Arcturus is the brightest star
in the northern half of the sky. It should be pretty easy to find
-- simply look for a bright star near the eastern horizon around 8 p.m.
you are having trouble finding it, you can use the Big Dipper as a
pointer. Remember how you can use the two outer-most stars in the
cup to point to Polaris, the north star? Similarly, you can use
the three handle stars to find Arcturus. Mentally follow the arc
formed by the first three stars in the handle --Aloth, Mizar, and
Alkaid -- away from the cup about four times the apparent distance
between the first and second stars.
You will see a very
bright star you might mistake for a planet. That’s
Arcturus. It has a magnitude of -0.4,
making it the fourth brightest star in the sky. But two of the
brighter stars are not visible on Hatteras Island. They are too
far south for us to see them! That makes Sirius -- the brightest
star in the night sky -- the only star in our night skies that is
brighter then Arcturus. If you have a good pair of
binoculars or a telescope, take a closer look at Arcturus and you will
discover it’s a binary star.
On the morning of April 4, we will
experience a partial eclipse of the moon. It will start about 5
a.m. and reach its maximum at 6:57. Do not get up late thinking
you’ll be able to enjoy the moon re-emerging from the sun’s
shadow. The moon sets at 7 a.m. If you want to see the
total lunar eclipse, try booking a flight to Hawaii! Or you can
wait until Sept. 27 to see a full lunar eclipse here on the Outer Banks.
the night of April 22-23, this year’s Lyrids Meteor shower will be at
its peak. If we have clear skies, the waxing moon should provide
good viewing conditions after midnight. The shower will seem to
originate near the constellation Lyra, which will be near the
northeast horizon on April 22. But you don't need to
look to the northeast to see the shower. It is
pretty much spread over the entire night sky, so you can just
spread a blanket, lie on your back and look up.
At its peak, you can expect to see about 15 shooting stars per hour.
forget to look for Saturn. On April 1 it rises in the southeast
at 11:30 p.m. By the end of the month, it will rise at 9:30 p.m.
defines a galaxy as a gravitationally bound system consisting of stars,
stellar remnants, interstellar gas and dust, and dark matter. Our
solar system is part of the Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way
contains about 200 billion (200,000,000,000) stars.
Galaxies are categorized by their shape. The three main types are elliptical, spirals, and irregulars.