Fun astronomy facts to impress your friends with!

April 2014

 

1st –Don’t be fooled! Looking to the west around 9 o’clock tonight you will see a group of 7 stars that look like the Little Dipper. This is actually the Pleiades star cluster.

2nd – The next two weeks of April will be your last chance to see Orion the Hunter early in the evening until next fall. Looking to the west around 10 o’clock you will see this winter constellation.

3rd – Looking to the west around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the waxing crescent moon. Look above and to the left of the moon to see the red star Aldebaran which is about 65 light years away!

4th – Public telescope viewing will be held the James S. McDonnell Planetarium tonight with the St. Louis Astronomical Society.

5th – Looking to the southwest around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the brightest star of the night sky. This star is called Sirius the Dog Star and it is about 8 light years away!

6th –Looking to the southwest around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the First Quarter Moon next to Jupiter. The moon is 1.2 light seconds away while Jupiter is about 43 light minutes away!

7th – Looking to the southeast around 11 o’clock you will see Mars high above Saturn. Looking to the west at the same time you will see Jupiter near the Moon.

8th – Mars is at opposition today. During opposition, Mars is closer to Earth and best for observing in telescopes. Today you will see Mars from a little after sunset to just before sunrise.

9th – James S. McDonnell was born on this date in 1899. He founded the St. Louis-based McDonnell Aircraft Company in 1939. The James S. McDonnell planetarium is named in his honor.

10th –Looking high in the southeast around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the waxing gibbous moon next to the star Regulus. This star is about 79 light years away!

11th – Looking to the west around 9 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like the letter “V”. This group of stars is the Hyades star cluster.

12th – On this date in 1981 was the first space shuttle launch. Space Shuttle Columbia carried astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen for a two day and six hour flight.

13th –Looking to the southeast around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the waxing gibbous moon just above and to the right of Mars. You could fit 2 Earth moons across Mars!

14th – Tonight the moon will enter the Earth’s shadow in a total lunar eclipse. The moon will enter the darker shadow around 12:58 a.m. and will be in totality around 2:07 a.m.

15th – The moon was full at 2:42 this morning and was known as the full pink moon because of the pink flowers known as wild ground phlox that bloom at this time of the year.

16th –On this date in 1963 the James S. McDonnell planetarium first opened. The planetarium continues to share the wonders of the sky through public telescope viewing, every first Friday!

17th – On this date in 1970, the Apollo 13 crew safely returned to Earth. Due to a malfunction the crew had to abort the lunar landing.

18th – Looking to the southeast around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the bright blue-white star Spica. This star is part of Virgo the Maiden and is around 250 light years away!

19th – On this date in 1971 the first space station, Salyut 1, was put into orbit. To learn where you can see the International Space Station in the sky visit http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/sightings/.

20th –Looking to the southwest around 5 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see Saturn above and to the left of Mars. Looking to the southeast you will see the moon and Venus just above the horizon.

21st – Looking to the southeast around 9 o’clock you will see 4 stars that form the spring diamond. You can follow the handle of the Big Dipper in a curved path to find Arcturus which is one of the stars of the diamond.

22nd – Today is Earth Day. Earth is the only planet in the solar system with large amounts of liquid water at the surface. Celebrate the day by conserving this natural resource.

23rd – Looking toward the center of the sky around 9 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like a backwards question mark. This pattern is called the sickle and is the head of Leo the Lion.

24th – On this date in 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was carried into orbit aboard the shuttle Discovery. You can see the amazing images captured by the HST at www.hubblesite.org.

25th – Looking to the east around 9 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that form a kite. This is the constellation Boötes the Herdsman.

26th – Looking to the southeast around 6 o’clock tomorrow morning and you will see the waning crescent moon to the left of Venus. You could fit 2 Earth moons across the diameter of Venus!

27th – Looking to the northeast around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the Big Dipper. If you look at the middle of the dipper’s handle you will see 2 stars. The dimmer of the two is called Alcor.

28th – Looking to the west around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the bright stars Pollux and Castor. These stars are part of the constellation Gemini the Twins.

29th – Looking to the northwest around 9 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like the letter “w”. This is the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen.         

30th– Looking near the center of the sky around 5 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see 3 bright stars that form the Summer Triangle. You will see this pattern earlier at night during the summer!