Geminid meteor shower

Geminid meteor shower, 2012 © Mike Lewinski

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Know what's up.

The Morrison Planetarium's Skywatcher's Guide is a quarterly compendium of astronomical happenings.

April 1

Easter Sunday, traditionally falling on the Sunday following the first full Moon of Spring. That full Moon occurred on March 31.

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April 7

Moon at last quarter very late in the evening in the Pacific time zone (and in the early morning hours of the 8th in time zones eastward).

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April 15

New Moon at 6:57 pm PDT. First sighting of the thin crescent marks the start of Sha'ban, the eighth month of the Moon-based Islamic calendar. This sighting will be possible from limited areas in Baja California, most of Mexico and Central America, and Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru on the 16th, more easily and widely across Earth on the 17th.

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April 22

This morning, the Lyrid meteor shower peaks. Observers hoping for a glimpse of these meteors should look late on the night of the 21st, between midnight and the start of morning twilight on the 22nd. The first quarter Moon sets at about 1 am, so its light won't interfere with meteor-watching. Find out more about this shower in Notes.

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April 29

Full Moon, known by several names to the Algonquin, one being the "Pink Moon"—not because the Moon looks pink, but rather after the color of phlox flowers that are among the first to appear at this time. They also called it the "Egg Moon" since many birds begin laying eggs at this time. Coinciding with the start of fishing season, it was also known by tribes living near the water as the "Fish Moon."

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May 5

Peak of the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower, averaging about 20 meteors per hour, though generally better for observers in the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, this year's peak occurs when the bright light of a waning gibbous Moon might interfere with observations, washing faint meteors from view.

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May 7

Last quarter Moon, rises around 2 am, its trailing side lit directly by the Sun, revealing the large, dark region known as the "Ocean of Storms" and the prominent craters Copernicus and smaller, brighter Aristarchus. Through binoculars or telescopes, the surrounding rays of ejecta are easily visible around both craters—indicating their relatively recent impact origins.

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May 15

New Moon at 4:48 am. Sighting of the first crescent after this new Moon marks the start of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This sighting will be possible from most of the world just after sunset on the 16th.

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May 21

The first quarter Moon rises shortly before noon against the stars of Leo the Lion and very close to the star Regulus, which represents the Lion's heart. The "terminator" dividing the Moon's daytime and nighttime halves, runs straight down the center of the Moon's disk, and is lit from the right-hand side, illuminating its leading hemisphere as it slowly ascends to its highest point in the south, where it's located at sunset. Setting around 1:30 am tomorrow morning.

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May 22

Autumnal equinox...on Mars. Fall begins in the Red Planet's northern hemisphere. For the southern hemisphere, it's the start of Spring. Because Mars takes almost twice as long as Earth to orbit the Sun, its seasons are correspondingly roughly twice as long as ours (the Martian Fall will last 142 days, compared to about 90 days here on Earth).

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May 29

Full Moon, also known as the "Flower Moon" by the Algonquin, the "Deep Water Moon" by the Kutenai, and the "Moon to Plant" by the Dakotah Sioux.

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June 6

Moon at last quarter shortly before noon, when the Moon is still above the horizon but setting in the west.

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June 13

New Moon, occurring at 12:43 pm PDT. Observers in the Americas and western Africa have a chance to see the first crescent just after sunset on the 14th. This sighting marks the start of Shawwal, the tenth month in the Moon-based Islamic calendar.

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June 20

First quarter Moon rises around 1:30 pm. After nightfall, notice the Moon's bright companions in this part of the sky: the planet Jupiter and the star Arcturus.

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June 21

June solstice...on Earth. This is when Earth's North Pole is tipped most toward the Sun. For observers in the Northern Hemisphere, this causes the Sun to follow a long, high arc across the sky, resulting in the longest daylight period of the year. For most purposes, this marks the start of the summer season. South of the equator, this day is the winter solstice, when the Sun has a short, low arc across the sky.

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June 27

Full Moon, rises at sunset, with Saturn about 1.5 degrees away (both visible in the same field of view in binoculars). Native Americans called the sixth full Moon of the year the "Strawberry Moon" (Algonquin), the "Windy Moon" (Choctaw), and the "Hot Weather Moon" (Ponca).

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