Every week, SkyNews publishes a list of key events in the Canadian sky in This Week’s Sky. This series gives you all the latest news in Solar System movements, including where the planets are in our sky and Moon phases. From eclipses to meteor showers, This Week’s Sky keeps you updated on the best in upcoming astronomical highlights.
Tuesday, April 12 – Jupiter and Neptune share the eyepiece (pre-dawn)
On the mornings surrounding Tuesday, April 12, observers in the tropics and points farther south can watch Jupiter and its Galilean moons pass extremely close to the distant blue planet Neptune. The two planets will share the view in a telescope eyepiece (inset) from April 6 to April 19. Jupiter will approach Neptune from the celestial west until Tuesday, April 12. During that closest approach, Neptune will be located only 6.5 arc-minutes to Jupiter’s southeast, making a terrific astrophotography opportunity. From Wednesday onward, Jupiter will shift progressively eastward away from Neptune.
Friday, April 15 – The Three Leaps of the Gazelle (all night)
The large and bright constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear is positioned near the zenith after dusk in mid-April. Everyone is familiar with the Big Dipper asterism portion of that constellation. Another easily seen, but lesser-known pattern is the Three Leaps of the Gazelle, composed of three pairs of medium-bright stars strung along a line spanning nearly 30 degrees of the sky. In each of the pairs, the stars are separated by about a thumb’s width (or 1.5 degrees). The most westerly stars Al Kaprah and Talitha, are found by extending a line drawn diagonally through the Big Dipper’s bowl from Megrez to Merak, i.e, towards Castor and Pollux. The central pair of Tania Borealis and Australis sits midway between the bright stars Dubhe and Algenubi in Leo. The most easterly duo, Alula Borealis and Alula Australis, are close to a line extended south from Dubhe through Merak. The word Alula arises from Arabic for “first leap”, while Tania means “second”, and Talitha means “third.”
Saturday, April 16 – Full Supermoon (at 18:55 UTC)
The Moon will officially reach its full phase at 2:55 p.m. EDT or 18:55 UTC on Saturday, April 16. April’s full Moon, commonly called the Pink Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, Egg Moon or Fish Moon, always shines in or near the stars of Virgo and Libra.
The Indigenous Ojibwe groups of the Great Lakes region call the April full Moon Iskigamizige-giizis “the Maple Sap Boiling Moon” or Namebine-giizis, “the Sucker Moon.” For them it signifies a time to learn cleansing and healing ways. The Cree of North America call it Niskipisim, “the Goose Moon” — the time when the geese return with spring. For the Mi’kmaw people of eastern Canada, this is Penatmuiku’s, “the Birds Laying Eggs Time Moon.” The Cherokee call it Kawonuhi, “the Flower Moon,” when the plants bloom. Full moons always rise in the east as the Sun sets, and set in the west at sunrise. Easter is observed on the Sunday that follows the first full Moon after the March equinox, making this one the Paschal full Moon for 2022. Easter will arrive rather late this year because March’s full Moon occurred only 2.5 days before the equinox.
Chris Vaughan is a science writer, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you can follow him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He can also bring his Digital Starlab portable inflatable planetarium to your school or other daytime or evening event. Contact him through AstroGeo.ca to tour the Universe together.