April 2023 Stargazing Guide

Posted on Monday, April 3rd, 2023

Greetings junior scientists, scientists and citizens this great big weird, wild wonderful world in which we live. As always I'm your humble science communicator, the great Orbax, coming to here for the Department of Physics at the University of Guelph and I'd like to welcome you to our April 2023 Star Gazing Guide! [Music] Welcome to our first full month of spring, junior scientists. And boy, is it ever spring! Over the course of the month we're gonna go from 12.5 hours of daylight to 14! With sunrise as early as 6:15 a.m. and sunset as late as 8:22 p.m. by the end of the month. As well, April is International Global Astronomy month junior scientists. If you're interested in checking out some cool events visit astronomerswithoutborders.org. Now as stargazers we spend most of our time with our eyes cast skyward but don't forget on April 22nd it's Earth Day. A day when we can take some time to reflect and think about ways that we can take care of my favorite planet in our entire universe, our home, Earth. This month we'll explore the lion in our sky, watch out for meteors and learn about a new mission to explore the moons of Jupiter. All this and more if we just take some time... to look up. This month I want you to look south and discover one of the most dominating constellations in our sky, Leo the Lion. Taking up a large portion of the southern sky, Leo is one of the 12 zodiacal constellations and can be seen pretty much from anywhere on earth except for Antarctica. Leo also has the often rare commodity of being a constellation that actually kind of looks like the thing it's named after. Start by trying to spot the sickle asterism, an easy to find pattern of six stars that kind of looks like a backwards question mark. In that sickle is Regulus, the 21st brightest star in the sky. Sweep towards the East until you find another bright star Denebola, whose name is shortened from Deneb Alased, an Arabic phrase meaning "tail of the lion". These two stars mark the base of Leo, an impressive constellation one YOU should learn how to spot junior scientists! Our full moon this month takes place at 12:34 a.m. on April 6th so technically it's the night of April 5th. This Springtime moon has many names reflecting the changes that occur in nature this time of year. It is referred to as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Fish Moon, the Egg Moon and even the Pink oon as reference to the phlox flowers which bloom early in eastern forests. The Mi’kmaw refer to the April Moon as Penatmuiku’s, the Birds Laying Eggs Time Moon, while the Ojibwe of the Great Lakes region referred to it as Iskigamizige-giizis , the Maple Sap Boiling Moon. The Cree Nation call it Niskipisim, the Goose Moon. Coinciding with the springtime return of the geese. The new moon this month takes place on April 20th meaning that the sky will be nice and dark for the Lyrid Meteor Shower peaking on April 22nd to 23rd. Emanating from Vega the brightest star in the constellation Lyra this is an annual meteor shower that takes place when the earth passes through space dust left by Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. With 18 an hour visible after midnight, these meteors sometimes produce long glowing dust trails that are visible for several seconds. Good luck junior scientists! On April 13th a new and exciting mission will launch the most powerful science payload that's ever been sent to the other solar system. In 1609 Galileo pointed his early telescope at Jupiter noticing that it had four stars surrounding it. He quickly realized that these weren't stars but actually moons. Since then these four largest of Jupiter's 95 moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, have been called the Galilean moons. The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer or JUICE will take eight years to reach Jupiter where it'll start its mission in 2031 by making 35 flybys of Ganymede, Callisto and Europa before settling into an orbit around Ganymede all while gathering the most accurate data ever collected of these moons. Larger than Mercury and Pluto, Ganymede is of particular interest to the JUICE Mission as it will probe the moon to determine whether or not it could be, or ever has been, a habitable environment. More than 2000 people in 23 countries working at 18 institutions and 83 companies have come together to create the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer which will launch on April 13th for French Guiana on an Arianne 5 rocket. What a month junior scientists! Missions to the outer solar system, meteors, stars and even celebrations of astronomy and our beloved Earth. Our Universe truly is an incredibly beautiful work of art one we should explore and celebrate every single day of our lives. And just think how easy that is when all we have to do is take some time... to look up. See you next month junior scientists and don't forget to have a science-tastic day! Thank you to Royal City Science's own planetary geochemist Dr Glynis Perrett for her help preparing our Star Gazing Guide. And the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. [Music]


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