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.
Monday, April 18 – Moon in the Scorpion’s Claws (all night)
When the waning gibbous Moon rises in late evening on Monday, April 18, it will be approaching from the right (or celestial west) the row of white, medium-bright stars that form the claws of Scorpius, the Scorpion. From top to bottom (celestial north to south) the brightest claw stars are: Graffias (Beta Scorpii), Dschubba (Delta Scorpii), Nur (Pi Scorpii), and Rho Scorpii. Graffias and Dschubba are double stars. The very bright, reddish star Antares will shine to the lower left (celestial east) of the claws and the Moon. During the night, the Moon’s eastward orbital motion will cause it to pass in front of Dschubba around 06:40 GMT. Observers in some locations will only see the Moon shining near that star. Early risers on Tuesday morning can see the Moon in Scorpius in the southwestern sky before dawn.
Friday, April 22 – Lyrids Meteor Shower Peak (pre-dawn)
The annual Lyrids meteor shower, derived from particles dropped by comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher), runs from April 16 to 30. It will peak in intensity at approximately 22:00 GMT on Friday, April 22. The Lyrids can produce up to 18 meteors per hour at the peak, with occasional fireballs. The greatest number of meteors will appear between midnight and dawn on Friday morning, but a reasonable number of meteors should be seen on Saturday morning, too. Genuine Lyrids will streak away from a point in the sky (the shower’s radiant) near the bright star Vega, which will be high in the eastern sky before dawn. For best results, try to view the meteors before the bright, waning gibbous Moon rises at 2 a.m. local time, reducing the number of pre-dawn Lyrids visible.
Saturday, April 23 – Third quarter Moon (at 11:56 GMT)
The Moon will officially reach its third quarter phase at 7:56 a.m. EDT or 11:56 GMT on Saturday, April 23. At third (or last) quarter the Moon is half-illuminated, on its western, sunward side. It will rise around midnight, and then remain visible until it sets in the western daytime sky in late morning. Third quarter moons are positioned ahead of the Earth in our trip around the Sun. About 3.5 hours later, Earth will occupy that same location in space. The week of dark, moonless evening skies that follow this phase are the best ones for observing deep sky targets.
Sunday, April 24 – Crescent Moon meets Saturn (pre-dawn)
In the southeastern sky before dawn on Sunday, April 24, the waning crescent Moon will commence its monthly meeting with the bright planets gathered there. On Sunday, the Moon will shine a fist’s diameter to the lower right (or 9 degrees to the celestial southwest) of Saturn’s yellowish dot. Mars and the much brighter planets Venus and Jupiter will be arrayed off to the left (celestial east), making a terrific photo opportunity when composed with some interesting scenery.
Monday, April 25 – Waning Moon between Mars and Saturn (pre-dawn)
After 24 hours, the waning Moon will shift east to form a large triangle below and between reddish Mars and yellowish Saturn on Monday morning, April 25 before dawn. The bright planets Venus and Jupiter will be paired up to the lower left of the trio. The plane of our Solar System will be defined well by the string of bright planets across the sky. The Moon will be traveling well south of that line because of its five-degree orbital inclination.
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.