....Oakland, California - Stargazing since 1924

What's Up

Bright Planet Notes for April 2011:

Mercury: Still totally lost to the Sun. May become visible again just after sunset around early April; conjunction w/Jupiter in May (see Jupiter notes).

Venus: Visible in the hour before dawn, but moves too close to the Sun by mid-July; then won't become visible to the naked eye until mid-October just after sunset, where it will be in fairly close conjunction with Mercury. However, know this: Venus is so bright, it can be visible even during the day, if you know how to do it. Warning: if it's too close to the Sun, it not only won't be visible, the danger of permanent eye damage from accidentally looking at the Sun itself increases greatly. Get advice from an amateur astronomer experienced in daytime Venus viewing before attempting this!

Mars: Too close to the Sun this month, and for the next several more as well. Starts becoming visible again in pre-dawn night around mid-August, near The Twins (Gemini), but won't become easily observable in the early evening until early March, 2012.

Jupiter: Lost to the Sun until the pre-dawn hours of May and June, then becoming visible earlier and earlier until October, when it becomes visible in the early evening, again.

Saturn: Rises in the east after sunset in the constellation Virgo; is visible in the late evening, rising earlier and earlier through the next several months; will have a close conjunction w/bright 3.43 magnitude star, Porrima, in Virgo around June 8.

Uranus: Too close to the Sun, now, in the constellation Pisces (The Fishes). Reappears in the east around 3am in early July, still in Pisces. Should be good earlier and earlier in the evening through early December

Neptune: Close to Uranus, so it's in the same boat.


New Moons for 2011: 1/4, 2/2, 3/4, 4/3, 5/2, 6/1, 7/1, 7/30*, 8/28, 9/27, 10/26, 11/24, 12/24.

*Blue Moon!

Meteor showers for 2011 (green text is good)

Morning of Max Name ZHR Radiant & Direction Lunar
Apr 3-4 Quadrantids 40 Draco (NE) low
Apr 21-22 Lyrids 20 Lyra (E) high
May 5-6 Eta Aquarids 60 Aquarius (E) low
Jun 14-16 Lyrids 10 Lyra (E) high
Jul 28-29 Delta Aquarids 20 Aquarius (S) low
Jul 29-30 Capricornids 15 Capricornus (E) low
Aug 12-13 Perseids 60 Perseid (NE) high
Oct 8-9 Draconids 10 Draco (NE) high
Oct 21-22 Orionids 20 Orion (SE) medium
Nov 17-18 Leonids 15 Leo (E) high
Dec 13-14 Geminids 120 Gemini (S) high

Four of this year's showers (green text) are favorably absent most or all of the Moon, and offer the best viewing opportunities. Note that the best time to view meteor showers is usually between 2am and astronomical dawn. Also, the showers themselves occur for days before and after their peaks, and can still be worth watching, off-peak.

Clear Sky Clock for Chabot Space & Science Center This handy utility predicts what the skies are likely to be like within the next two days. It may take a minute to figure out, but after that, it's quite simple, and very useful.

Direct link for the weekend viewing prospects at Chabot Observatory (usually posted around 5pm on Friday and Saturday evening).

The lunar phase calendar (above) was created with a very cool program called Quick Phase, which generates all kinds of info on the phases of the moon. If you're interested in getting it yourself, click here.

*transit - to cross from the eastern half of the sky to the western half, or vice-versa. When an object transits in an east-to-west direction, it's at its highest elevation above the horizon. This is the best time to view any object, because the higher it is in the sky, the fewer layers of Earth's atmosphere will interfere with, and distort, the image.

For more info about What's Up this month, check out Sky & Telescope's web page.





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