This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 April 4 – April 11

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 April 4 – April 11

Although Orion and his two dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, are slipping into the sunset, they are not the only pooches in the night sky. The small constellation of Canes Venatici the Hunting Dogs is generally seen as a pair of stars well below the handle of the Big Dipper. They assist their master, Boötes, in chasing the celestial bears around the pole.

In one tale from mythology Boötes is Icarius, a vineyard owner who was taught the art of winemaking by Bacchus. He introduced his shepherd neighbours to his product, and when they awoke hung over the next morning they thought they had been poisoned. In retaliation they killed Icarius and threw him in a ditch. His dogs, Chara and Asterion, sensed something was wrong, and when they eventually found their master they jumped into the ditch to die with him.

The brightest star in Canes Venatici is a double star called Cor Caroli, which means the Heart of Charles. Edmond Halley coined this because it was said to have shone brightly when Charles II returned to London after his defeat by Cromwell. The other naked eye star in the constellation is Chara, from the Greek word for “joy,” and opponents of the Boston Bruins will disagree with that. Halfway between Cor Caroli and Arcturus, the brightest star in Boötes, you can see a fuzzy patch with binoculars. This is the globular star cluster M3 from Messier’s catalogue. Galaxy M94 lies just north of the midpoint between Cor Caroli and Chara; and the much-imaged Whirlpool Galaxy is within the borders of Canes Venatici, despite being near the handle of the Big Dipper.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:52 am and sunset will occur at 7:52 pm, giving 13 hours of daylight (6:58 am and 7:56 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:39 am and set at 8:01 pm, giving 13 hours, 22 minutes of daylight (6:45 am and 8:05 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full on Tuesday evening, just eight and a half hours after perigee, giving extreme tides during midweek. Venus remains within a binocular view of the Pleiades for several days. Venus makes 13 orbits of the sun in the same time it takes Earth to make eight orbits. Therefore, it makes this close pass by the Pleiades in early April every eight years. Mars puts some eastward distance between it and Saturn in the morning sky, while Jupiter edges toward Saturn. Mercury rises 35 minutes before sunrise and it is pretty much out of sight.

With astronomy meetings and outreach on hold, there are many educational astronomy websites to fill your time. One I check daily is Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). It gives beautiful image or a short educational video with a few lines of explanation. Heavens Above is another favourite to explore.

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

 


This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 March 28 – April 4

I regard Leo the Lion is as the signature constellation of spring, and it is not difficult to picture a lion in its distinctive pair of asterisms. A backwards question mark or a sickle represents its chest and mane, anchored by the bright star Regulus at its heart. To the east a triangle of stars forms the back leg and tail. Originally, a faint naked-eye cluster of stars represented a tuft at the end of the tail, but that now makes the tresses of Coma Berenices.

In mythology, the lion was a vicious creature that resided in the mountains of Nemea. Its hide was impenetrable to spears or arrows; the only thing sharp enough to penetrate the lion’s hide was its claws. The first of Hercules’s twelve labours was to kill this creature, which the legendary strongman did by strangulation. He then used the claws to cut off the lion’s hide for use as a shield. A friend of mine sees this constellation as a mouse, with the triangle as its head and the sickle as its tail. However, legends are not made by having a muscular demigod battle a mouse.

Amateur astronomers often point their telescopes at Leo for two trios of galaxies; one under the belly and the other by the back leg. Each trio can fit within the view through a wide-field eyepiece. Five of the six galaxies are Messier objects.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:05 am and sunset will occur at 7:43 pm, giving 12 hours, 38 minutes of daylight (7:11 am and 7:47 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:52 am and set at 7:52 pm, giving 13 hours of daylight (6:58 am and 7:56 pm in Saint John).

The crescent Moon is near Venus this Saturday and it is at first quarter phase on Wednesday. On Thursday evening the Moon approaches the Beehive star cluster. The highlight this week will be watching Venus approach the Pleiades, a star cluster we also call the Seven Sisters. They are a binocular view apart this weekend, with Venus passing in front of the cluster late in the week. Morning people can watch Mars slide below Saturn over the week, with bright Jupiter nearby to their upper right. Mercury rises about 40 minutes before sunrise and it can be seen with luck and some difficulty in binoculars.

All local public astronomy events are cancelled. However, you can catch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show on YouTube at 9 pm this weekend, and watch previous shows, by going to:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAEHfOWyL-kNH7dBVHK8spg

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

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