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Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

Look out for lunar eclipse,  meteors and spacecraft

Posted on March 22 2014 at 10:21:06 0 comments

Re-supply ships

Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

April – normally the month when it starts to feel like spring – is here, although we seem to have had that in early March this year.

The lighter nights become more obvious though, as sunset becomes later; being at twenty to eight on the 1st and half past eight on the 30th, by which time daylight will be nearly 15 hours long!

Jupiter will still be the brightest object in the sky as soon as it gets dark, although slipping westward now.

Look for it especially on the 6th when a thin crescent Moon will be close by, sitting in a triangle with Procyon below and to the left and the giant red star, Betelgeuse to the right.

This is the brightest star of Orion the Hunter, who disappears by the end of April (presumably off hunting somewhere) so, if you have a new telescope, this is your last chance to look for the nebula in Orion’s Belt.

Another planet starts to peep over the south-eastern horizon as the month progresses.

This is Mars, and on the 14th a nearly full Moon will form a thin triangle with it and the star Spica. Full Moon occurs the following day and with it, a total lunar eclipse.

Sadly, this happens a little after the Moon has set here in the UK but if you’re up early, start looking at about 05:30 and as it sets, you may see the first flush of the Earth’s shadow cross its face as it vanishes from view.

We have two good meteor showers this month, the first starting on the 16th. This is the Lyrid meteor shower, caused by the Earth passing through the debris left in the wake of comet Thatcher.

It builds to peak on the 22nd but look out for it anytime up to the 26th. You don’t need to look for the constellation Lyra, just look upwards at the darkest bit of sky, though you will have to spend some time observing.

The second shower starts on the 19th and lasts through to next month – this is the Eta Aquirid shower, although I’m not going to even try to explain that name. Basically, it just means that the last week or so of the month is a great time to look for meteors!

There are also a couple of exciting spacecraft launches to watch out for. The first is due on the 28th when the Russian Progress 55 vessel launches to the International Space Station with about two tons of supplies and fuel for the station’s propellant systems.

The Russian launching programme seems very reliable nowadays but you need to find out when (or if) it is visible from that trusty website, heavens-above.com

The other scheduled launch is due on the 1st of May. This is the Orbital 2 Commercial Resupply Services craft, again due to dock with the Space Station, but this flight has already been delayed a few times. It should launch from a site in the eastern USA called Wallops.

Let’s hope it doesn’t go Crash Bang!


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