What’s Up April 2024

A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth

Compiled by Steve Sawyer

Hi welcome to Aprils Whats Up, I hope you’re all not too full of chocolate so you’re still able to get outside and take a look at the night sky!
This month our cousins have an eclipse to forward to on the 8th April. Some cheap flights might still be available! We however can look forward to the annual Lyrid meteor shower and a potential brightening comet.

 

Eclipse Map

If you fancy a trip you can fly from Leeds – Dublin, enjoy a Guinness or two and then head for Toronto (drive south for the eclipse) all for £252 (one way)

 

Link here Cheap flights from Manchester to Toronto at Skyscanner

So what’s on this month?

Ok that’s enough of being a travel agent. Here’s whats happening this month.
We have the Moon’s close approaches to planets like Mars, Saturn, Venus, and Jupiter, and the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower towards the month’s end. Additionally, the Moon’s perigee presents a larger and brighter appearance, while its apogee marks its smallest and dimmest. The η-Aquariid meteor shower begins, setting the stage for its peak in May. With planets in close proximity to the Moon and bright stars like Aldebaran, Pollux, Regulus, Spica, and Antares making appearances.

Sky Diary


Date Time (UTC) Event Details
02 03:15 Last Quarter  
06 03:51 Mars (mag. 1.2) 2.0ºN of the Moon
06 09:24 Saturn (mag. 1.1) 1.2ºN of the Moon
07 08:11 Neptune (mag. 8.0) 0.4ºN of the Moon
07 16:38 Venus (mag. -3.8) 0.4ºS of the Moon
07 17:51 Moon at perigee = 358,849 km
08 18:17 Total solar eclipse (Mexico/USA)
08 18:21 New Moon  
09 01:24 Mercury (mag. 4.9) 2.2ºN of the Moon
10 21:09 Jupiter (mag. -2.0) 4.0ºS of the Moon
10 23:51 Uranus (mag. 5.8) 3.6ºS of the Moon
12 08:48 Aldebaran 10ºS of the Moon
14–30 April   Lyrid meteor shower  
15 14:25 Pollux 1.5ºN of the Moon
15 19:13 First Quarter  
18 11:56 Regulus 3.5ºS of the Moon
18 23:00 Venus and Mercury (mag. -3.8 and 3.9) 2.0ºS of each other
19–May 28   η-Aquariid meteor shower  
20 02:10 Moon at apogee = 405,623 km
22–23 April   Lyrid meteor shower maximum  
23 02:44 Spica 1.4ºS of the Moon
23 23:49 Full Moon  
26 20:39 Antares 0.3ºS of the Moon

This table organizes the celestial events by date and time, listing each event’s details for easy reference.
This table captures the astronomical events for April, including phases of the moon, planetary alignments, and other notable occurrences.

Sky Maps

Looking South on the 15th at 22:00

Looking North on the 15th at 22:00

The two charts above show all DSOs of magnitude 6.0 or brighter. They are both taken from
SkyViewCafe.com and correct for the 15th of the month. For a clickable list of Messier objects with images, use the Wikipedia link.

April Objects

The Sun

Whilst being active over the last month, we’ve been unlucky in the UK as any Earth bound CME’s have impacted at the wrong time of day to spark UK visible Auroras. At the time of writing, no active sunspots are Earth facing and no CME’s are due.

Resources

For more info on the sun and solar weather look here : –

Space Weather Enthusiasts Dashboard | NOAA / NWS Space Weather Prediction Center

Auroa Forecasts

A bit US centred but still useful

Aurora Dashboard (Experimental) | NOAA / NWS Space Weather Prediction Center

And our own Met-office have an excellent space weather forecast page here Space Weather – Met Office

The Moon

April moon calendar from Sky View Café (skyviewcafe.com)

The Full Moon in April is commonly known as the Pink Moon. This name is traditionally linked to the blooming of “moss pink,” or wild ground phlox, which is one of the early spring flowers in the Northern Hemisphere. Other names for April’s Full Moon include:

  • Egg Moon or Easter Moon: These names are sometimes found in Northern Europe as well, especially linked to Easter celebrations, which often occur in April. The association with eggs is tied to themes of fertility and rebirth, common in springtime celebrations.
  • Seed Moon: Reflecting the time to start sowing seeds for the upcoming agricultural season. This name emphasizes the importance of planting crops for the year.
  • Awakening Moon: Symbolizing the awakening of nature after the winter, this name highlights the emergence of new life in spring, with flora and fauna coming to life again.

Moon Feature

The Rimae Rupes Alta

The Rupes Altai, an impressive lunar escarpment stretching over 500 kilometres, marks the outer rim of the ancient Nectaris Basin on the Moon’s southeastern quadrant. Formed from geological forces linked to a massive impact, this cliff-like feature rises up to 3 kilometres in height, offering a stark depiction of the Moon’s dynamic past. Best observed through small to medium-sized telescopes during the first quarter phase, when the Sun’s angle accentuates its dramatic topography, the Rupes Altai provides a captivating alternative to the more commonly observed lunar craters, highlighting the geological processes that shape our nearest celestial neighbour. Use this link for further details and location Rupes Altai – The Moon (the-moon.us)

See the sky diary for this months lunar events as there are some nice viewing opportunities .

A full yearly lunar calendar can be found here :-

https://www.mooninfo.org/moon-phases/2023.html

Planets

Mercury

Too close to the sun to be visible

Venus

Not well placed for viewing this month

Mars

Moving into the Subs glare but can still be glimpsed in the early morning sky

Jupiter

The best of the planets to view this month, paired with a crescent moon on the 10th

Saturn

Not well placed for viewing this month

Uranus

Evening planet that is dipping into the evening twilight.

Neptune

Not visible this month

Meteor Showers

Lyrids

 

The Lyrids will peak on the night between April 22nd and 23rd in 2024 but are active from the 16th. The Lyrid Meteor Shower is one of the oldest meteor showers known, with records dating back to 687 BC.
The Lyrids originate from comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. Comet Thatcher was discovered on April 5th, 1861 by A. E. Thatcher. The radiant of the meteor shower is near the constellation Lyra, the harp. The Lyrids appear to radiate from the area near the star Vega, the brightest star in this constellation.

e η-Aquariids

The η-Aquariid meteor shower, stemming from debris of Halley’s Comet, graces the skies from late April to mid-May, peaking around early May. With a radiant point in the constellation Aquarius, this shower is best viewed in the pre-dawn hours. You can expect around 30-40 meteors per hour at the peak, marked by their high speed and brightness, often leaving long, glowing trail

Comets

In early April, comet 12P/Pons-Brooks brightens in the evening sky, offering the best viewing opportunities at the month’s start due to the expanding evening twilight. This comet, known for its 71-year orbital period, reaches perihelion on April 21, 2024, making it an excellent time for observation. Its highly inclined orbit brings it from beyond Neptune at aphelion to just outside Venus’s orbit at perihelion. Notably, the comet experienced significant outbursts in 2023, notably brightening and changing appearance, including a horseshoe-shaped coma likened to the Millennium Falcon. Predicted to reach naked-eye visibility in April, with its brightness peaking around magnitude +4.1 at perihelion, 12P/Pons-Brooks will be close to the star Hamal at the end of March and in early April, and its path will take it near Jupiter mid-month, although it may be challenging to see due to twilight.

These are the other viewable comets this month, the ones listed below start at mag 7 and go to mag 13.

Name Mag
103P/Hartley 2 7
C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) 12
C/2022 E2 (ATLAS) 13
29P/Schwassmann- Wachmann 1 13

Deep Sky (DSO’s)

Hickson 44 in Leo

These are small, tight groups of galaxies that present a real challenge for amateur astronomers. Hickson 44 refers to a group of galaxies, this group is also known as the NGC 3190 Group and Arp 316. It consists of three spiral galaxies and one elliptical galaxy.

  • Distance: The group is approximately 60-100 million light-years away.
  • Members: The group includes the following galaxies:
    • NGC 3185
    • NGC 3187
    • NGC 3190
    • NGC 3193

Each of these galaxies shows signs of interaction, such as warped disks or a large bright bar.
Hickson 44 (James E.) – AstroBin

Hickson 68

Hickson 68 is a small galaxy cluster located in the constellation of Canes Venatici. It is primarily 90 million light years away and is the 3rd brightest cluster (magnitude 11.8) in the Hickson catalog. This cluster of 5 NGC galaxies lies within a diameter of 10 arc-minutes.

  • Members: The group includes the following galaxies¹:
    • NGC 5350
    • NGC 5353
    • NGC 5354
    • NGC 5355
    • NGC 5358
  • NGC 5353 and NGC 5354: These two galaxies appear to be interacting and both are producing large amounts of radiation on the radio spectrum¹. They both show distortions arising from this interaction. It would appear that these galaxies are separated by only about 9kpc and are in the process of merging.
  • NGC 5350: This is a face-on barred spiral galaxy and also a Seyfert galaxy (has an active galactic nucleus).
  • NGC 5371: This is a bright galaxy nearby Hickson 68. It is not part of the group but is at the same distance and appears to be physically associated with the HCG 68 group.

Hickson 68 (Gary Imm) – AstroBin

The Integral Sign Galaxy (UGC 3697

A peculiar spiral galaxy with an extremely elongated, narrow shape located in the constellation Camelopardalis. Its unusual appearance is reminiscent of the mathematical integral sign. The galaxy is approximately 90 to 151 million light-years away.
The peculiar shape is likely caused by the galaxy’s relatively small mass being twisted and contorted by the neighbouring galaxy UGC 3714 and several dwarf galaxies that lie nearby. Another theory speculates that the appearance may have been caused by an infalling satellite galaxy.

The Integral Sign Galaxy (astronomy.com)

NGC 2903

NGC 2903 is a barred spiral galaxy located in the constellation Leo. It’s one of the brighter galaxies in the sky, not included in the Messier catalogue. NGC 2903 is relatively close, at a distance of about 20 to 30 million light-years from Earth. It has a diameter of approximately 80,000 light-years, making it slightly smaller than our Milky Way.

NGC 2903 is classified as a barred spiral galaxy (type SBb), which means it features a central bar-shaped structure composed of stars. Its well-defined spiral arms emanate from the ends of the bar, rich in star formation regions that give the arms a bright, patchy appearance due to the presence of young, hot stars and nebulae.

ISS and other orbiting bits

No sightings available for the 1st part of April.

Use the this NASA website for exact timings for York overpasses. York, England, United Kingdom | Sighting Opportunity | Spot The Station | NASA

Useful Resources

 

https://www.spacedaily.com/

http://www.n3kl.org/sun/noaa.html

http://skymaps.com/downloads.html

http://www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2024.html

https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/what-are-names-full-moons-throughout-yearhttp://www.deepskywatch.com/deepsky-guide.html

https://www.constellation-guide.com/

and of course the sky at night magazine!

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