A diagram of the Full Pink Supermoon on April 26, 2021. | SkyNews
Full Pink Supermoon (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

This Week’s Sky: April 26 to May 2, 2021

The full “supermoon” takes over the sky this week.

Monday, April 26 – Full Pink Supermoon (April 27 at 3:31 GMT)

A diagram of the Full Pink Supermoon on April 26, 2021. | SkyNews
Full Pink Supermoon (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

The Moon will officially reach its full phase at 3:31 GMT on Tuesday, April 27, which corresponds to 11:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, April 26. 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. Full moons always rise in the east as the sun sets, and set in the west at sunrise. When full, the Moon’s geology is enhanced, especially the contrast between the bright, ancient, cratered highlands and the darker, younger, smoother maria. This full Moon will occur less than 12 hours before perigee, the point in the Moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth, generating large tides worldwide and making this the second of four consecutive supermoons in 2021. Supermoons look about 16 per cent brighter and seven per cent larger than average (red circle).

Friday, April 30 – The Three Leaps of the Gazelle (all night)

A diagram of The Three Leaps of the Gazelle on April 30, 2021. | SkyNews
The Three Leaps of the Gazelle (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

Everyone is familiar with the asterism of the Big Dipper within Ursa Major, the Big Bear. That large constellation spans the zenith after dusk in late April. Three Leaps of the Gazelle is another easily seen, but lesser-known pattern in that constellation. Spaced along a line spanning nearly 30 degrees of the sky, three pairs of medium-bright stars resemble a gazelle’s tracks, or perhaps the toes of the bear. In each pairing, the stars are separated by about a thumb’s width (1.5 degrees). The most westerly stars, Kappa and Iota UMa (or Al Kaprah and Talitha), are found by extending a line drawn diagonally through the Big Dipper’s bowl from Megrez to Merak. The central pair, Mu and Lambda UMa (or Tania Borealis and Australis) sit midway between the bright star Dubhe and Algenubi in Leo. The most easterly duo, Xi and Nu UMa (or Alula Borealis and 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 “three.”

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.

Get a Free Digital Issue