Each month I will highlight a few easy things for you to spot in the night sky. These will be visible with the naked eye.
Planets in April
Venus continues to be a beautiful bright object throughout April. Apart from the Moon it is the brightest object in the night sky. It is best seen in the evening twilight looking West. Here is a star map showing its position in the sky – really, you can’t miss it!
If you are an early riser then you are in for a treat during April! In the early twilight you will see Saturn and Jupiter and maybe Mars – appearing close together. They are visible low down in the southeast sky.
Here are three dates as examples but you can see them together throughout the month from about 05:00.
6th April 2020 at 5.30am.
15th April 2020 at 5.30am. Note they are close to the moon.
25th April 2020 at 5.30am.
A Meteor Shower
Meteors are particles of dust shed by a comet. Despite the fact they can streak dramatically through the sky, these particles are mostly no larger than a grain of sand. As a comet orbits the Sun it releases dust and when the Earth passes through the dust trail then, hey presto – we get a shower!
We are in for a treat this month as you will be able to observe the Lyrids meteor shower anywhere between the 16th and the 25th of the month. However, it tends to peak on the nights of the 21st- 23rd.
Named after constellation Lyra, the Lyrids are one of the oldest recorded meteor showers—according to some historical Chinese texts, the shower was seen over 2,500 years ago. The fireballs in the meteor shower are created by debris from comet Thatcher, which takes about 415 years to orbit around the Sun. (The comet is expected to be visible from Earth again in 2276).
How to see the meteor shower this April
To watch the shower you don’t need or want binoculars- simply find a reasonably dark place and a comfortable chair, or a deckchair or best of all lie down! You will need to look in the right direction and this is East/NE -looking out for the bright star Vega. On the peak nights you can expect 15-20 meteors per hour.
Here is a star map to help you find the right place to look. The green circle is the centre of radiance. But don’t worry too much about looking at the exact right spot- looking east is enough.
See how many you can spot and don’t forget to make a wish when you see one!
Enjoy the spring sky, see you next month and do view the beautiful images from deep space at www.galaxyonglass.com.