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Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky -- Month of April 2024

Posted by Guy Pirro   04/04/2024 11:56PM

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky -- Month of April 2024

On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the Sun. The sky will darken as if it were dawn or dusk. Safety is the number one priority when viewing a total solar eclipse. Be sure you're familiar with when you need to wear specialized eye protection designed for solar viewing. Viewing any part of the bright Sun through a camera lens, binoculars, or a telescope without a special-purpose solar filter secured over the front of the optics will instantly cause severe eye injury. When watching the partial phases of the solar eclipse directly with your eyes, you must look through safe solar viewing glasses (“eclipse glasses”) or a safe handheld solar viewer at all times. You can also use an indirect viewing method, such as a pinhole projector.​ [Video and Content Credits: NASA, the Office of Public Outreach – Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and JPL – Caltech, Preston Dyches, Christopher Harris, and Lisa Poje with subject matter guidance provided by Bill Dunford, Gary Spiers, Lyle Tavernier, and Molly Wasser] [Image Credit:  Dan Folz, Astromart Gallery Contributor - https://www.astromart.com/gallery/photo/17409 , Image of 1998 Total Solar Eclipse taken from Baby Beach in Aruba. Nikon 800mm f/5.6 lens -- Six images stacked from 1/30s to 4 second exposures.]

 


Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky -- Month of April 2024

Welcome to the night sky report for April 2024 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. A total solar eclipse sweeps across the United States on April 8th, as the Moon's shadow moves from Texas northward through Maine. Areas outside totality will enjoy a partial eclipse. Also, there's still time to observe comet 12P this month. During April, near the Big Dipper you will find several interesting binary stars. You can also spot galaxies like the Pinwheel Galaxy (NGC 5457, M101), the Cigar Galaxy (NGC 3034, M82), and M96 (NGC 3368) -- the last of which is an asymmetric galaxy that may have been gravitationally disrupted by encounters with its neighbors. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.

For several days of April, early risers can watch Mars and Saturn rising together in the morning. Taking a look about half an hour before sunrise, you can find them low in the east, about 10 degrees above the horizon. They're at their closest on April 10th and 11th, but still really close in the sky the whole second week of April.

On the evening of April 10th you can find the Moon with Jupiter in the west. Jupiter's easy to identify as a bright, non-flickering light, low in the west following sunset, all month. Being just a couple of days after its "new moon" phase, the Moon shows only 7% of its illuminated surface on this evening, making for a beautiful crescent shining there with the giant planet Jupiter.

This is also a good night to have a look for comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, which has been getting brighter and is easily observable with binoculars or a small telescope, especially if you can get away from bright city lights. The comet will be just beneath the Moon and just right of Jupiter. But you'll have to be quick, as it drops below 10 degrees elevation an hour after sunset and then sets an hour later. So you'll want a clear view toward the horizon and be looking for it as twilight ends. If you want to catch this comet, do it soon, because it will be too close to the Sun in the sky to be observable after mid-April. And later when it makes its closest approach to Earth, it will be on its way outward from the Sun and growing fainter.

 

 

2024 Total Solar Eclipse

There's a total solar eclipse on the way. We've been really fortunate to have two total eclipses visible across a wide swath of the US recently -- first in 2017 and now on April 8th, 2024. The next time such an eclipse will cross the States is 21 years from now. If you live in or near the path of totality, or you're traveling there to experience the eclipse, you're in for an incredible experience.

But what if you're not going to be able to experience totality for this eclipse in person? What can you expect and how can you still enjoy it? Well for starters, NASA has you covered with a live webcast, from multiple locations, as the Moon's shadow moves across the country. So join us for the total eclipse online, whatever your plans.

https://science.nasa.gov/eclipses/future-eclipses/eclipse-2024/live/

If you're anywhere in the continental US outside of totality, you'll still experience a partial solar eclipse. The amount of the Sun to be covered by the Moon at maximum eclipse depends on how far you are from the path of totality.

In observing a partial eclipse, you'll still need to use specialized eye protection, such as eclipse glasses, a pinhole projector, or a telescope with a solar filter. One of the easiest methods is something most of us have in our kitchen – a regular colander. These make excellent pinhole cameras that project the eclipse onto the ground. And barring that, the sun dapples that filter through the tree leaves do something very similar. It's also fun to note the eerie way the sunlight dims during the eclipse, especially in places where the Moon covers 80% or more of the Sun's disk.

NASA has a bunch of eclipse resources to help you get ready for this awe-inspiring celestial event. There's info on safe-viewing, citizen science opportunities, and you'll even find NASA’s "Eclipse Explorer," where you can find eclipse details for your specific zip code.

From wherever you're observing, solar eclipses are remarkable events. So observe safely, and join NASA’s  live webcast, because it's an event you surely don't want to miss.

 

 

Deep Sky Objects

Whether you call it the Big Dipper, or Ursa Major, or the Plough, it's probably the most familiar pattern of bright stars in the northern sky. The Big Dipper is a really useful reference for finding your way around the sky, but it also contains a hidden surprise: One of its stars is really two. Or, actually, six… Let's break that down…

What looks at first glance like a single bright star here, midway along the Dipper's handle, is on closer inspection a double star: Mizar and Alcor. Next time you have a chance, try to see if you can perceive them as two stars with your own eyes. Once you give it try, then grab binoculars if you have them, which will easily show them as separate stars.

The two star systems are around a light-year apart, and are located 80 to 90 light-years away from our solar system, with Alcor taking just shy of a million years to complete an orbit around Mizar.

Lots of stars are bound together by gravity in small groups, especially in pairs – or binaries – that orbit around each other. But usually it takes a telescope to be able to see them as separate stars. Mizar and Alcor are a rare example of a double star that you can see as a pair without the aid of a telescope.

But it gets more interesting: Although they appear as a close pair of two stars, they are in fact six. Alcor is a binary pair of stars, while Mizar is actually four stars – two pairs of binaries. So find the unusual "double" stars Mizar and Alcor in the Big Dipper in April, where what at first appears as one star is, in reality, a six-star system.

During the spring, our view is away from the cloudy plane of the Milky Way, and the clearer view reveals other galaxies. Near the end of the Big Dipper’s handle lies the Pinwheel Galaxy, also known as M101. A ground-based telescope reveals its spiral shape. With the eye of the Hubble Space Telescope, we can see individual stars that make up this spiral galaxy. The Pinwheel Galaxy is similar in both size and shape to our own Milky Way galaxy.

Beyond the Big Dipper’s bowl lies a pair of galaxies: M81 and M82. The two galaxies are relatively nearby, just 12 million light-years away, and very close to each other -- just 150,000 light-years apart.

South of the Great Bear roams another great beast: Leo the Lion. Leo’s bright heart is marked by the star Regulus, a system of four stars -- two double stars circling each other. Within Leo’s stomach lie a number of galaxies. Two of them, M95 and M96, are large spirals. An infrared view of M95 shows an orderly galaxy seen face-on, but a visible light view of M96 shows an asymmetric galaxy, probably gravitationally disrupted by encounters with its neighbors.

The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.

The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."

 

Constellation: Canes Venatici

NGC 4111                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H195-1

NGC 4143                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H54-4

NGC 4151                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H165-1

     - NGC 4145                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with H165-1

NGC 4214                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H95-1

NGC 4242                 Galaxy                                    P214

NGC 4244                 Galaxy                                    C26

NGC 4258                 Galaxy                                    M106 Herschel 400 H43-5

NGC 4346                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H210-1

NGC 4395                 Galaxy                                    P71

NGC 4449                 Galaxy                                    C21, Herschel 400 H213-1

NGC 4485                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H197-1 Paired with H198-1

NGC 4490                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H198-1 Cocoon Galaxy Paired with H197-1

NGC 4618                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H178-1

NGC 4631                 Galaxy                                    C32, Herschel 400 H42-4 Whale Galaxy

     - NGC 4627                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with C32

NGC 4656                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H176-1 Hockey Stick Galaxy

     - NGC 4657                      Galaxy                                         - Interacting with H176-1

NGC 4736                 Galaxy                                    M94

NGC 4800                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H211-1

NGC 5005                 Galaxy                                    C29, Herschel 400 H96-1 Paired with H97-1

NGC 5033                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H97-1 Paired with H96-1

NGC 5055                 Galaxy                                    M63 Sunflower Galaxy

NGC 5194                 Galaxy                                    M51 Whirlpool Galaxy

NGC 5195                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H186-1 Paired with M51

NGC 5272                 Globular Cluster                   M3

NGC 5273                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H98-1

     - NGC 5276                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with H98-1

NGC 5371                 Galaxy                                    P215

  

Constellation: Coma Berenices

NGC 4147                 Globular Cluster                   Herschel 400 H19-1

NGC 4150                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H73-1

NGC 4192                 Galaxy                                    M98

NGC 4203                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H175-1

NGC 4245                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H74-1

NGC 4251                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H89-1

NGC 4254                 Galaxy                                    M99

NGC 4274                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H75-1

NGC 4278                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H90-1

NGC 4293                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H5-5

NGC 4314                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H76-1

NGC 4321                 Galaxy                                    M100

NGC 4350                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H86-2

     - NGC 4340                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with H86-2

NGC 4382                 Galaxy                                    M85

NGC 4394                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H55-2 Paired with M85

NGC 4414                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H77-1

NGC 4419                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H113-1

NGC 4448                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H91-1

NGC 4450                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H56-2

NGC 4459                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H161-1

NGC 4473                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H114-2

NGC 4477                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H115-2

     - NGC4479                       Galaxy                                         - Paired with H115-2

NGC 4494                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H83-1

NGC 4501                 Galaxy                                    M88

NGC 4548                 Galaxy                                    M91, Herschel 400 H120-2

NGC 4559                 Galaxy                                    C36, Herschel 400 H92-1

NGC 4565                 Galaxy                                    C38, Herschel 400 H24-5

NGC 4651                 Galaxy                                    P222

NGC 4689                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H128-2

NGC 4725                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H84-1

NGC 4826                 Galaxy                                    M64 Blackeye Galaxy

NGC 4889                 Galaxy                                    C35

NGC 5024                 Globular Cluster                   M53

NGC 5053                 Globular Cluster                   P78

 

Constellation: Corvus

NGC 4027                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H296-2

NGC 4038                 Galaxy                                    C60, Herschel 400 H28.1-4 Antennae Galaxy (North)

NGC 4039                 Galaxy                                   Herschel 400 H28.2-4 Antennae Galaxy (South)

NGC 4361                 Planetary Nebula                 Herschel 400 H65-1

 

 

Constellation: Virgo

NGC 4030                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H121-1

NGC 4179                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H9-1

NGC 4216                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H35-1

NGC 4261                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H139-2

     - NGC 4264                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with H139-2

NGC 4273                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H569-2

     - NGC 4268                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with H569-2

NGC 4281                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H573-2

     - NGC 4277                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with H573-2

NGC 4303                 Galaxy                                    M61, Herschel 400 H139-1

NGC 4365                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H30-1

NGC 4371                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H22-1

NGC 4374                 Galaxy                                    M84

NGC 4406                 Galaxy                                    M86

NGC 4429                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H65-2

NGC 4435                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H28.1-1 Eyes of Markarian’s Chain (North)

NGC 4438                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H28.2-1 Eyes of Markarian’s Chain (South)

NGC 4442                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H156-2

NGC 4472                 Galaxy                                    M49

NGC 4478                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H124-2

     - NGC 4476                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with H124-2

NGC 4486                 Galaxy                                    M87 – Virgo A Galaxy

NGC 4526                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H31-1

NGC 4527                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H37-2

NGC 4535                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H500-2

NGC 4536                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H2-5

NGC 4546                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H160-1

NGC 4550                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H36-1

     - NGC 4551                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with H36-1

NGC 4552                 Galaxy                                    M89

NGC 4569                 Galaxy                                    M90

NGC 4570                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H32-1

NGC 4579                 Galaxy                                    M58

NGC 4594                 Galaxy                                    M104, Herschel 400 H43-1 Sombrero Galaxy

NGC 4596                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H24-1

NGC 4621                 Galaxy                                    M59

NGC 4636                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H38-2

NGC 4643                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H10-1

NGC 4649                 Galaxy                                    M60

     - NGC 4647                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with M60

NGC 4654                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H126-2

NGC 4660                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H71-2

NGC 4665                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H142-1

NGC 4666                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H15-1

NGC 4697                 Galaxy                                    C52, Herschel 400 H39-1

NGC 4698                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H8-1

NGC 4699                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H129-1

NGC 4753                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H16-1

NGC 4754                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H25-1 Paired with H75-2

NGC 4762                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H75-2 Paired with H25-1

NGC 4781                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H134-1

NGC 4845                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H536-2

NGC 4856                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H68-1

NGC 4866                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H162-1

NGC 4900                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H143-1

NGC 4958                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H130-1

NGC 4995                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H42-1

NGC 5054                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H513-2

NGC 5068                 Galaxy                                    P203

NGC 5247                 Galaxy                                    P67

NGC 5363                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H6-1 Paired with H534-2

NGC 5364                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H534-2 Paired with H6-1

NGC 5566                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H144-1

     - NGC 5560                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with H144-1

     - NGC 5569                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with H144-1

NGC 5576                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H146-1

NGC 5634                 Globular Cluster                   Herschel 400 H70-1

NGC 5746                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H126-1

     - NGC 5740                      Galaxy                                         - Paired with H126-1

NGC 5846                 Galaxy                                    Herschel 400 H128-1

 

 

For more information:

Northern Latitudes:

https://hubblesite.org/resource-gallery/tonights-sky

https://science.nasa.gov/skywatching/whats-up

https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm

https://blogs.nasa.gov/Watch_the_Skies/

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/skywatching/home/

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/skywatching/whats-up/

https://science.nasa.gov/mission/hubble/science/explore-the-night-sky/hubble-messier-catalog/

https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/skyreport

http://outreach.as.utexas.edu/public/skywatch.html

https://griffithobservatory.org/explore/observing-the-sky/sky-report/

http://www.beckstromobservatory.com/whats-up-in-tonights-sky-2/

https://www.fairbanksmuseum.org/planetarium/eye-on-the-night-sky

http://dudleyobservatory.org/tonights-sky/

https://cse.umn.edu/mifa/starwatch

http://www.schoolsobservatory.org.uk/learn/astro/nightsky/maps

https://tonightssky.com/MainPage.php

https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/visible-planets-tonight-mars-jupiter-venus-saturn-mercury

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/

https://stardate.org/nightsky

https://www.adventuresci.org/starcharts

https://www.astromart.com/news/search?category_id=3&q=kiss+the+sky&from=&to

 

Equatorial Latitudes:

https://heavens-above.com/SkyChart2.aspx

https://in-the-sky.org/data/constellations_map.php

https://ytliu0.github.io/starCharts/chartGCRS.html

 

Southern Latitudes:

https://www.scitech.org.au/explore/the-sky-tonight/

https://www.stardome.org.nz/star-charts--sky-spotter

 

Watch Satellites Pass Over Your Location:

https://james.darpinian.com/satellites/

 

Astromart News Archives:

https://www.astromart.com/news/search?category_id=3&q=.

 

Check out some of my favorite Words of Wisdom:

https://astromart.com/news/show/words-of-wisdom-my-favorite-quotable-quotes

https://astromart.com/news/show/words-of-wisdom-my-favorite-proverbs-from-around-the-world

 

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