March 31, 2017
The Night Sky:
March was a good month for galaxies
By GERRY LEBING
This is M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. The larger galaxy is M51A and the
smaller is M51B. They are located about 23 million light years
away and have a visual magnitude of 8.4. M51A contains more than 100
101, the Pinwheel Galaxy, is about 21 million light years away and has
a visual magnitude of 7.7. It is estimated that M101 has a trillion
Messier 63, the Sunflower Galaxy is 27 million light years away.
It has a visual magnitude of 9.3. M63 has more than 400 Billion stars.
What to Look for in April
you are an early riser, you will be able to see Venus (magnitude -4) in
the morning, close to the eastern horizon, throughout April. On
April 1, Venus will rise just before sunrise. By the end of
the month, it will be coming up at 4:21 AM. Venus will be at its
brightest point of the year on April 30th!
and Mars will be visible on April 1 near the western horizon, just
after sundown. Mercury will fade into the sunset by the 9th but
re-emerge as a morning star on the 29th.
7, Jupiter will be at opposition with the Earth and Sun. That
means you can draw a line through the three, with Earth in the
middle. It also means Jupiter is the closest it gets to us this
year! So that makes the 7th a great opportunity for viewing and
taking pictures. Jupiter is the very bright object that will be visible
just above the eastern horizon at dusk. Best viewing will be
took this picture of Jupiter on March 8. The faint object to the
upper right isn’t a smudge--it’s one of Jupiter’s moons.
two very bright stars in the eastern evening skies this month are
Arcturus, which is the 4th brightest star in the night sky, and Vega,
which is the 5th. Arcturus will rise in the East just after
sundown. It is the closest red giant star to the Earth (about 37
light-years) and is estimated to be 7 billion years old. Vega
will rise about 3 hours later. It has a visual magnitude of +0.2
and is 25 light-years away. Vega is a blue-white star that’s
about twice the size of the Sun. It is believed to be about 400
million years old.
you have a telescope or good pair of binoculars, you can use these two
stars to help find the globular cluster M13, the Hercules
Cluster. Mentally draw a line between the two and then look about
1/3 the distance from Vega to Arcturus. With a little patience,
you should be able to find the cluster.
M13, the Hercules Cluster, is about 22 thousand light years away.
It has a visual magnitude of 5.8. M13 contains about 300
Lyrid Meteor Shower will take place between April 16 and 25. It
should peak on the night of April 22. The meteors will seem to
originate from the star Vega. Vega is the very bright star that
rises in the NE at about 9:00 PM. You can expect about 18 meteors
per hour throughout the night.
New moon: April 26
First Quarter: April 3
Full moon: April 11
Last Quarter: April 19
Lebing is a retired computer scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey
in Washington, D.C. He has visited Hatteras Island since the
mid-1970s. He and his wife, Karen, have owned property here for several
years and moved to their home in Waves full-time in 2013.
Astronomy is a subject that Gerry says he has always been interested in
and one that he pursues seriously -- he's built an small observatory
next to his house. You can send him questions about the night sky
through e-mail, [email protected]g.)