April 3 – 16, 2017
Mt. Washington — When the spring star Arcturus is first spotted rising in the east-northeast at nightfall, it sparks our awareness of the changing sky. Spring constellations are rising as winter’s hallmark patterns are setting. Arcturus (Greek arctos ‘bear’ + ouros ‘guardian’ = guardian of the bear), in the constellation Bootes the Herdsman, and Ursa Major, the Great Bear, are neighbors. The Bear has many dim stars and so is not very easy to see; the Big Dipper is part of the Bear, made up of its brightest stars. The handle of the Dipper, which is also the tail of the Bear, points to Arcturus. You’ll know Arcturus by remembering to “arc to Arcturus” – simply follow the curve of the Dipper’s handle until you arrive at a big, orange star, the second brightest star in northern skies, second only to Sirius the Dog Star.
Planet Jupiter appears to the right of Arcturus, in the east-southeast, half an hour after the spring star climbs into view. The two brilliant celestial bodies travel in tandem all night. If you have a view to the south-southwest, quite a ways to the right of Jupiter, you’ll find Sirius and complete the line-up of the evening’s outstanding lights.
Sunset is at 7:21 p.m. on Monday the 3rd and 15 minutes later on the 16th. Arcturus rises at 7:04 p.m. on the 3rd and 6:13 p.m. on the 16th. Planet Jupiter rises at 7:33 p.m. on the 3rd and an hour earlier on the 16th. Sirius sets in the southwest around midnight on the 3rd and 11 p.m. on the 16th.
April’s Egg Moon reaches full phase at 2:08 a.m. on Tuesday the 11th, which makes for the roundest full moon on the 10th when Luna rises in the east-southeast at 7:02 p.m. On the 10th, planet Jupiter will be a “beauty mark” on the moon’s right side. By the calendar, Full Moon is on the 11th, when moonrise is at 8:01 p.m.
Heads-up! This coming Saturday and Sunday, April 8 and 9, the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) takes place in Suffern, New York (see the links that follow for full details). At this writing, I wish to highlight a few of the featured speakers presenting in the main auditorium. On Saturday afternoon, Sara Seager, planetary scientist/astrophysicist and MIT professor, discusses “Mapping the Nearest Stars for Habitable Worlds.” Scott Bolton, principal investigator, NASA’s Juno Mission to Jupiter, describes his work. Co-hosts James Albury and Dean Regas of the PBS television series, “Star Gazers,” will present “Star Gazers: Popularizing Astronomy.”
On Sunday, Mike Reynolds, professor of astronomy at FSC offers “The Great American Total Solar Eclipse” and Joe Rao, meteorologist, follows with “How to Survive August’s Total Eclipse.” Other topics include “The Moon Lover’s Guide to the Bright Sky” and “Bridging History: Preparing to Launch Astronauts Atop United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V.”
Opportunities to Participate
April 6 & 7, Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference (NEAIC): http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/neaic.html
April 8 & 9, Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF): http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/neaf.html
NEAF presenters sampler
Scott Bolton, NASA Juno Mission: https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/
PBS Star Gazers: http://stargazersonline.org/about_star_gazers.html
Introduction to NEAF 2017: http://theberkshireedge.com/eyes-to-the-sky-vernal-equinox-mercury-at-dusk-neaf/
Description of NEAF 2016: http://theberkshireedge.com/eyes-sky-neaf-astronomy-enthusiasts-oasis/