April, 2017 Programs

Spring Constellations — The mythology and science behind star patterns in the Winter sky above Lincoln.  Running time:  20 minutes

AstroShorts —     Sky news and Coming Attractions.  This month: Losing The Dark, What’s Up April 2017, and Preview of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse.  Running time:  19 minutes.

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What we’re looking at through the observatory’s telescopes in April

Planets:

Venus, which has been a brilliant object after sunset all winter, has now vanished from the evening sky and is emerging as a morning planet just before sunrise.

Mars is still in the evening sky, clawing its way eastward, but slowly losing ground to the relentless westward motion of the season-driven sky.  At over 200 million miles distance, Mars is little more than a tiny orange marble in the telescopes.

Jupiter is the planet to view this month.  It reaches opposition, i.e., opposite the sun in our sky, on the 7th, when it is visible all night, and is at its biggest and brightest this year.  On the downside, Jupiter is almost at its farthest point from the sun in its orbit, so it appears somewhat smaller and fainter than usual.  Not a great problem, though, because Jupiter is so big (all the other planets in the solar system could fit inside it, with room to spare) that it is always spectacular in the telescopes.

The Moon:

The moon on public nights this month:  4/1, just before First Quarter, is the best public night to view the moon this month.  On the 8th, the moon is approaching Full (reached on 4/11) — still fair viewing, but losing surface shadow detail.  The moon disappears from the evening sky on the 15th and 22nd, rising after the observatory closes at 11:00 p.m.  It will be visible as a crescent, 3 days after New Moon,  on the night of the 29th.

Deep Sky Objects:

Galaxies, Nebulae, globular star clusters and other objects beyond the solar system will be viewed through the telescopes throughout the month, depending upon sky conditions.