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Island Planetarium

Monthly Sky Guide – April 2024

Greetings Stargazers

Welcome to what is now officially Spring, and after all the rain we had in March, let’s hope for some drier skies and clearer nights at least. The clocks go forward to British Summer Time at the end of March and this means the evenings are drawing out with more light, but less time to observe the sky in a dark environment.

Let’s start with a total eclipse of the Sun at New Moon on April 8th. Unfortunately it will only be visible from Mexico and parts of North America. Totality will last about 4 minutes and will no doubt be well covered by the media. There is usually a live TV event on YouTube so it’s worth looking at, for those who have never seen a total eclipse.

The night sky is still dominated by the reverse question mark or sickle of Leo the Lion. Regulus is the bright white star at its base, at a distance of 77 light years. Above and to the right of Leo are the two bright stars of Gemini the Twins, namely Castor and Pollux. Rising in the Eastern sky is the bright yellow star Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes the Herdsman. It Is the 4th brightest star in the night sky and about 36 light years away.

MOON Our only satellite will be New on the 8th and Full on the 23rd. Notable dates to look in the sky after sunset are, 10th close to Jupiter, 11th close to the Pleiades star cluster. See how many Pleiades you can count with the naked eye!

JUPITER continues to shine brightly in the West after sunset and worth a look through binoculars or a small telescope. See if you are able to view the 4 large Moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. They change positions, and it’s fun to see them as they carry out their Jovian dance nightly. 

COMETS There is much media hype about “Bright Comets in 2024” but in reality you will be disappointed by the majority of them that never make it to naked eye visibility. It makes for good headlines, although astronomers are keeping a close eye on Comet Atlas expected in the Autumn. I would personally avoid getting too excited at this stage and we should know more by the Summer if it will be as bright as some people suggest. It could be the “The Comet of the Century” but don’t hold your breath is my advice.

METEORS The annual meteor showers of the Lyrids and Aquariids will both be affected by a large Moon presence this month, and will wash out all but the brightest ones.

That’s it for this month I wish you clear skies, and hope to see you at our monthly Stargazing Evening on Tuesday April 2nd 2024.

John Ward Amateur Astronomer  Island Planetarium

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