Thursday, April 18

April Night Sky 2024 – Astronotes

April, is that you? Jaysus you’re lookin’ well! 

That’s right, can you believe it, we’re already in April. March was a bit of a crazy one, with some days feeling like all the seasons had been rolled into one. We’re past that now, and from here on out we’re hoping for better weather, and some truly amazing night sky star gazing.  

 

When going out stargazing this April, don’t forget to keep an eye on the weather. Don’t forget April showers bring May flowers! In Northern Ireland the weather can be unpredictable, but if you keep a good eye on your preferred weather apps and websites, it will give you a good idea of when is best to go out for some stargazing. Even the slightest bit of rain can hinder the lens of a telescope, so be careful and plan appropriately.  

 

Moon 

One of the best things to observe in the night sky is the Moon. In the UK, the Moon will be completely full at 12:48am on 24th April. The full moon this month is known as the Full Pink Moon. This doesn’t mean that the moon will look pink, although that would be cool to see. The term “Pink Moon” is often associated with April’s full Moon as flowers begin to bloom, particularly moss pink or creeping ground phlox, which is one of the earliest and most widespread spring flowers. Creeping ground phlox thrives in sandy or rocky soils and is often used as a ground cover.  

A Pink Moon! The moon will not actually be pink, but the nickname makes it sound as if it will! Image Credit: Wikimedia commons

Stars and Constellations 

Stargazing wouldn’t be stargazing without stars! Remember when you are going out to let your eyes adapt to the night sky. Keep those mobile phones in your pockets because the harsh, bright light will ruin your night vision. Use red lights instead.  

Leo 

If you want to pick out some constellations in the April night sky, why not try looking for one of the signs of the Zodiac? Leo the Lion is a great constellation to find and is easily spotted by its asterism, The Sickle. As you know, asterisms are not official constellations, but are shapes found within constellations, or are even made up of the brightest stars from various constellations.  

Looking South at roughly 11pm you will be able to see Leo in the night sky. Look out for his backwards question mark shaped head! Credit: Heather Alexander/Stellarium

Leo itself is a constellation with a great mythology behind it. It is commonly linked with Hercules and the Nemean Lion. The first labour of Hercules was to defeat the Nemean Lion; however, this lion’s coat was impervious to stone, rock and wood. This proved to be difficult for Hercules, but he realised that instead of trying to penetrate the lion’s skin, he could strangle the creature instead. He defeated the lion and then used one of its claws to skin the beast and keep the coat. Not the most uplifting story, particularly for the poor lion, but that’s Greek mythology for you! 

Arcturus 

One of the best stars to look out for in Spring is Arcturus. It’s found in the constellation of Bootes the Herdsman. Arcturus is found at the bottom of the constellation and is redder in colour. It is the fourth brightest star in the night sky and is also a very fast-moving star. We won’t see it move in the sky in our lifetime, but thousands of years from now, it will be in a different area of the sky and will have warped the look of Bootes so much that it won’t look like the constellation we know today.  

Arcturus as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope (Image credit: NASA)

Meteor Shower 

Finally, we have another brilliant event in April that hopefully everyone will get to see if the skies remain clear. The Lyrids meteor show will start on 14th April, and have its peak around 22nd-23rd April. The shower will end around 30th April. We get the Lyrids meteor shower from Comet Thatcher. Comets, and some asteroids, leave a debris field in space. When the Earth passes through the debris this is how we get meteor showers. Comet Thatcher was only discovered in 1861 but the Lyrids meteor shower is one of the oldest recorded showers, with records dating back to 687 BCE. There are typically 18-20 meteors per hour with the Lyrids, so hopefully, if you keep watching the skies, you will catch a glimpse.  

 

 

source: armaghplanet.com