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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of April 2020

Posted by Guy Pirro   04/09/2020 07:46AM

Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of April 2020

In this infrared and visible-light image from Hubble, the spiral galaxy M96 (NGC 3368) resembles a giant maelstrom of glowing gas, rippled with dark dust that swirls inward toward the nucleus. Its dust and gas are unevenly spread throughout its weak spiral arms, which are asymmetrical because of its gravitational interaction with neighboring galaxies. M96 is also remarkable for the location of its core, which is not exactly at the galactic center. Because it is gravitationally bound to nearby galaxies, M96 is considered a member of a galaxy group. This collection of galaxies, known as the M96 Group, also includes the bright galaxies M105 and M95, as well as a number of smaller and fainter members. It is the nearest group to Earth containing both bright spirals and a bright elliptical galaxy. M96 was discovered in 1781 by Pierre Mechain, the French astronomer and cartographer. It is located 35 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Leo. [Video Credits: NASA, JPL – Caltech, and the Office of Public Outreach – STScI] [Image Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, the LEGUS Team, R. Gendler]


Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of April 2020

Welcome to the night sky report for April 2020 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. Clear April nights are filled with galaxies. You can spot M101 (the Pinwheel Galaxy), M81, and M82. Venus climbs higher in the sky each evening, crossing through the Pleiades star cluster. Mars continues its getaway from Jupiter and Saturn. Also, “the Moon illusion” will be visible during the month as the moody and sometimes downright haunting vista of a huge, yellowish-colored Moon rises above the horizon.

Face north and overhead, you will find Ursa Major, the Great Bear. The Big Dipper, which forms part of the bear, is one of the most familiar star patterns in the sky. In the middle of the handle lie Mizar and Alcor, a double star discernible with the naked eye. A telescope shows Mizar and Alcor as a diamond-white pair of stars. In fact, this is a six-star system: Alcor is itself a binary, while Mizar is actually two sets of binaries -- a quadruple star.

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.

At the beginning of April, look to the west each evening in the couple of hours after sunset as Venus visits the Pleiades. Watch each night as Venus climbs higher in the sky each evening, crossing through the Pleiades star cluster.




The planetary quartet of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and the Moon once again make a showing in mid-April. Since giving Jupiter and Saturn the slip last month, the Mars continues its getaway from the gas giants in this month's morning skies. Mars begins the month just beneath Saturn, but by the middle of April, it's moved a decent distance away. Then the Moon swings by the group of planets mid-month. Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars won't appear close together in the sky again for a couple of years, so catch them now if you can.

Earth is currently catching up to Mars in its orbit, as the two planets come into the right position for the launch of NASA's Mars 2020 mission and its newly named Perseverance rover.

An Optical Illusion? -- Most of us have had the experience of watching the full moon rise in the distance, maybe over a city or a distant mountain, and it looks HUGE. In fact, it's got the very appropriate (if unimaginative) name of "the Moon illusion." Although this illusion has been known for thousands of years, there still isn't a truly satisfying scientific explanation for why we see it.




Now the Moon is essentially the same width in the sky on any specific night, whether it's rising, setting or overhead. (There are a variety of experiments you can do to prove this for yourself.)

Photographers can simulate the Moon illusion by taking shots of the moon low on the horizon using a long lens with buildings, mountains or trees in the frame.

Curiously, it is known NOT to be an optical effect of our atmosphere, though the atmosphere does add to the yellowish color of the rising and setting Moon, much as it makes the rising and setting Sun look redder.

Even airline pilots and astronauts have reported seeing the moon illusion in the absence of trees, buildings and mountains to help provide a sense of scale.

Researchers have shown that it's definitely something going on in our brains that has to do with the way we perceive the size of distant objects near the horizon, versus high in the sky, but the precise explanation for why it happens is still elusive.

So until someone puzzles out exactly what our brains are up to, it's probably best to just enjoy the Moon illusion, and the moody, atmospheric and sometimes downright haunting vistas it creates.

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: Leo

NGC 2903                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H56-1

NGC 2964                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H114-1

     - NGC 2968             Galaxy                              - Paired with H114-1

NGC 3190                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H44-2

     - NGC 3187             Galaxy                              - Paired with H44-2

NGC 3193                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H45-2

NGC 3226                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H28-2

     - Paired with H29-2

NGC 3227                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H29-2

     - Paired with H28-2

NGC 3351                    Galaxy                         M95

NGC 3368                    Galaxy                         M96

NGC 3377                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H99-2

NGC 3379                    Galaxy                         M105, Herschel 400 H17-1

NGC 3384                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H18-1

NGC 3412                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H27-1

NGC 3489                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H101-2

NGC 3521                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H13-1

NGC 3593                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H29-1

NGC 3607                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H50-2

     - Paired with H51-2

NGC 3608                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H51-2

     - Paired with H50-2

NGC 3623                    Galaxy                         M65

NGC 3626                    Galaxy                         C40, Herschel 400 H52-2

NGC 3627                    Galaxy                         M66

NGC 3628                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H8-5

NGC 3640                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H33-2

     - NGC 3641             Galaxy                              - Paired with H33-2

NGC 3655                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H5-1

NGC 3686                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H160-2

NGC 3810                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H21-1

NGC 3900                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H82-1

NGC 3912                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H342-2


Constellation: Ursa Major

Messier 40                  Double Star                 M40 - Winnecke 4

IC 2574                        Galaxy                         P121 - Coddington’s Dwarf Galaxy

NGC 2681                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H242-1

NGC 2742                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H249-1

NGC 2768                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H250-1

NGC 2787                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H216-1

NGC 2841                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H205-1

NGC 2950                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H68-4

NGC 2976                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H285-1

NGC 2985                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H78-1

     - NGC 3027             Galaxy                              - Paired with H78-1

NGC 3031                    Galaxy                         M81 – Bode’s Galaxy

NGC 3034                    Galaxy                         M82, Herschel 400 H79-4 - Cigar Galaxy

NGC 3077                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H286-1

NGC 3079                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H47-5

NGC 3184                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H168-1

NGC 3198                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H199-1

NGC 3310                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H60-4

NGC 3556                    Galaxy                         M108 Herschel 400 H46-5

NGC 3359                    Galaxy                         P202

NGC 3587                    Planetary Nebula        M97 - Owl Nebula

NGC 3610                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H270-1

NGC 3613                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H271-1

     - Paired with H244-1

NGC 3619                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H244-1

     - Paired with H271-1

NGC 3631                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H226-1

NGC 3665                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H219-1

     - NGC 3658             Galaxy                              - Paired with H219-1

NGC 3675                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H194-1

NGC 3726                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H730-2

NGC 3729                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H222-1

     - NGC 3718             Galaxy                              - Paired with H222-1

NGC 3813                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H94-1

NGC 3877                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H201-1

NGC 3893                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H738-2

     - NGC 3896             Galaxy                              - Paired with H738-2

NGC 3898                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H228-1

NGC 3938                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H203-1

NGC 3941                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H173-1

NGC 3945                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H251-1

NGC 3949                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H202-1

NGC 3953                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H45-5

NGC 3982                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H62-4

NGC 3992                    Galaxy                         M109, Herschel 400 H61-4

NGC 3998                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H229-1

     - NGC 3990             Galaxy                              - Paired with H229-1

NGC 4026                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H223-1

NGC 4036                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H253-1

     - Paired with H252-1

NGC 4041                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H252-1

     - Paired with H253-1

NGC 4051                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H56-4

NGC 4085                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H224-1

     - Paired with H206-1

NGC 4088                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H206-1

     - Paired with H224-1

NGC 4102                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H225-1

NGC 4605                    Galaxy                         P252

NGC 5322                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H256-1

NGC 5457                    Galaxy                         M101 - Pinwheel Galaxy

NGC 5474                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H214-1

     - Paired with M101

NGC 5473                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H231-1

NGC 5631                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H236-1


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