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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 April 20 – April 27

One third of the way from Arcturus to Vega is a pretty semicircle of stars that makes up Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. In the middle of the semicircle is the constellation’s brightest star, called Gemma (jewel) or Alphecca (bright star of the broken ring), among other names. A few years ago the International Astronomical Union started approving official names for stars, and Alphecca was chosen over Gemma.

Some ancient societies regarded Corona Borealis as a begging bowl, and in local aboriginal legend it is the cave from which the bear (the bowl of the Big Dipper) emerges in spring. In Greek mythology it was a crown worn by Bacchus, the god of wine, who lived on the island of Naxos. Theseus, an Athenian prince, went to Crete as part of a group of youth who were to be placed in the labyrinth as food for the Minotaur. With the aid of Ariadne, the beautiful daughter of King Minos, Theseus slew the Minotaur and found his way out of the labyrinth. In love with Ariadne, he took her aboard to sail back to Athens. They stopped at Naxos where Bacchus also fell in love with Ariadne, and he made Theseus leave without her. To prove his love and his godliness to the skeptical Ariadne, he tossed the crown into the sky as a symbol of her beauty. Immortality and a lifetime supply of wine, who could pass that up?

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:24 am and sunset will occur at 8:12 pm, giving 13 hours, 48minutes of daylight (6:30 am and 8:16 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:12 am and set at 8:21 pm, giving 14 hours, 9 minutes of daylight (6:19 am and 8:25 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is near Jupiter on Tuesday, Saturn on Thursday, and it is at third quarter on Friday, April 26. Mars and Jupiter are in opposite ends of the sky this week, with Mars setting and Jupiter rising around 1 am. Saturn is a hand span to the left of Jupiter, with both being well-placed for observing as morning twilight begins. Venus and Mercury remain about a binocular width apart, rising less than an hour before sunrise. Uranus is in conjunction on Monday, and on Monday evening or early Tuesday morning you might catch a few extra meteors emanating from near the bright star Vega as the Lyrid meteor shower peaks.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 April 13 – April 20

As the Sun is setting this week, Spica is rising in the east. This blue giant star is the brightest in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, and the 14th brightest star of the night sky. It is usually located by following the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle to Arcturus and driving a spike to Spica. With Arcturus in Boötes and Regulus (or dimmer Denebola) in Leo, it forms the Spring Triangle. If you toss in Cor Coroli in Canes Venatici, below the handle of the Big Dipper, you get the Spring Diamond.

Spica represents an ear of wheat in the hand of Virgo. In Greek mythology she was Demeter, the goddess of wheat or agriculture (Ceres in Roman mythology). The Sun passes through this constellation in harvest time, and it is in the head of Virgo at the autumnal equinox. Virgo is the second largest of the 88 constellations in terms of area of sky, trailing only Hydra the Water Snake. Coincidentally, it also trails Hydra in the sky, which can be seen stretching below Leo.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:37 am and sunset will occur at 8:03 pm, giving 13 hours, 26minutes of daylight (6:43 am and 8:07 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:24 am and set at 8:12 pm, giving 13 hours, 48 minutes of daylight (6:30 am and 8:16 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at its best for April observing this weekend and it is full on Good Friday, April 19. Mars is near Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus and which marks the Bull’s eye. This gives us a good opportunity to compare their brightness and colour. Jupiter rises by 1 am and is at its best for observing before dawn. Saturn is a hand span to Jupiter’s lower left, while Venus and Mercury are about a binocular width apart rising less than an hour before sunrise.

There will be public observing in Hampton at the Dutch Point Road entrance to Dutch Point Park on Friday, April 12 at sunset, with a cloud date of April 13. RASC NB, the provincial astronomy club, meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on Saturday, April 13 at 1 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 April 6 – April 13

The constellation Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s Hair, is midway up in the eastern sky at 10 pm this week, between the tail of Leo the Lion and kite-shaped Boötes. It is the only constellation with a mythological tale based on a real person. In the fourth century BC, King Ptolemy Soter of Egypt went to war against Assyria. His worried wife Berenice made a vow to the goddess Aphrodite that she would sacrifice her beautiful locks if he returned safely. He did return and she kept her vow against his wishes. When he visited the temple the next day he discovered the hair had been stolen, and he threatened to kill the temple priests. The court astronomer claimed that Zeus had taken the hair and placed it in the sky for all to admire, and that night he showed Ptolemy a cluster of stars.

The Coma Star Cluster, also called Melotte 111, can be seen with the naked eye in rural areas, and fills the field of view in binoculars. At one time it was considered to be the tuft of Leo’s tail. The area of sky encompassed by Coma Berenices and its surrounding constellations is called the Realm of the Galaxies. The galactic north pole lies within this constellation, perpendicular to the dusty disc of our Milky Way Galaxy. When we look in this direction the paucity of interstellar dust allows us to see deeper into space and observe other galaxies many dozens of light years away.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:50 am and sunset will occur at 7:54 pm, giving 13 hours, 4minutes of daylight (6:55 am and 7:58 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:37 am and set at 8:03 pm, giving 13 hours, 26 minutes of daylight (6:43 am and 8:07 pm in Saint John).

A very slim crescent Moon will appear in the west after sunset this weekend, looking like a smile in the sky with the cusps or horns pointing almost straight up. It is at first quarter next Friday and is near the Beehive star cluster in Cancer the following evening. Jupiter and Saturn dominate the morning sky until Venus rises an hour before the Sun comes up. Jupiter is stationary on Wednesday, beginning its four-month long westward movement against the stars. Mercury is at its greatest elongation from the Sun on Thursday, about a binocular width to the lower left of Venus. Mars continues its slide between the Pleaides and Hyades star clusters in the evening sky all week.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on Saturday, April 6 at 7 pm, and the RASC NB provincial astronomy club meets in the same location at 1 pm on the following Saturday. Also, club members will be having a public observing event in Hampton at the Dutch Point Road entrance to the park on Friday, April 12 at sunset, with a cloud date of April 13. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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Photos of the Month – April 2019

[Featured image above by James Cleland – see panoramic version below]

Click on any image to view a larger version. While viewing the larger version, click on the image to show/hide the description. You may also click on the left/right arrows to go to the previous/next image.

All images are copyright of their respective authors. You may not use or redistribute these images without their permission.


 

 


François’ complete astrophotography gallery is available on his Astrobin page.

The deadline for members submitting their photos for the May issue of this blog is April 29th.

If you are a RASC-NB member, and have not received instructions via email about how to submit your photos, please contact the webmaster here (choose Concerning: Website).

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