April 2024 Stargazing Guide

Posted on Monday, April 1st, 2024

Greetings Junior Scientists, Scientists and citizens of this great big weird, wild and wonderful world in which we live. As always I’m your humble science communicator, the great Orbax, coming to you from the Department of Physics at the University of Guelph and I’d like to welcome you to our April 2024 Star Gazing Guide.

Well junior scientists, here we are. April's bringing the biggest celestial event we've had in the history of our star gazing guides with the coming solar eclipse. Don't forget to check out our 'What, Why and How?' series of videos for all your eclipse info, but that's not all that's happening up there in April! This month we see the return of Mars, the Planet of Robots! Try our luck with the Lyrid's Meteor Shower, and we check out a little known eclipse secret. All this and more if we just take some time... to look up.

Back in November we mentioned that Mars was experiencing a Solar Conjunction where the Sun blocked our view of the Red Planet, an event which takes place about every 2 years. Not only did this block our view but the Solar Conjunction also blocked our transmissions to our Martian robots. Since then our view of Mars hasn't been the greatest. This month our view of the Planet of Robots returns, visible in conjunction with Saturn around 6:00 a.m. on the 10th and the 11th and increasing in visibility as the month goes on.

Our Full Moon this month occurs on Tuesday the 23rd and is known as the Pink Moon in reference to the Phlox flowers that 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 call it Iskigamizige-giizis, the Maple Sap Boiling Moon. The Cree Nation call it Niskipisim, the Goose Moon, coinciding with the springtime return of the geese.

Well it's been a while but don't forget to watch out for METEORS the Lyrid's meteor shower will be visible from April 16th to the 25th with its peak on the 22nd. Emanating near Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, this annual meteor shower occurs as Earth passes through space dust left by Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. Unfortunately the light of the nearly Full Moon will mask most of the dimmer shooting stars but with up to 20 per hour these meteors can produce long glowing dust trails that can last up to several seconds. Good luck junior scientists.

There's been an incredible amount of attention in the media about the solar eclipse we're experiencing in Southern Ontario on April 8th. I've produced videos addressing the 'What, Why and How?' for the event which you can watch here. In these videos I cover... well... the what, why and how of this particular eclipse. But I want to share an eclipse secret with you that you may not have heard about yet. Discovered by Jean-Louis Pons on July 12, 1812 Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is a comet with an orbital period of 71.3 years. This flying ice volcano has become brighter in our skies as of late, visible with binoculars or a telescope, and is predicted to get even brighter in April. Now as you know the Moon will block our view of the sun on the afternoon of April 8th meaning that not only will it be dark but the stars and maybe even this comet will be visible. Take a look high in the sky, due south. Just up and to the left of the eclipse right between Jupiter and the constellation Pisces. Now comets are notoriously unpredictable so who knows, but can you imagine if you not only witnessed an eclipse that won’t happen again for 120 years but you were able to see a comet that won’t return for over 70?

Well that’s April Junior Scientists! Lots to look at and even more to discover!

I want to send a message to one of our Junior scientists out there. Long time Star Gazing Guide viewer Wylder just got their first telescope in time for the Solar Eclipse! I wish you clear skies my friend, and hope you find a universe of wonder through the lens of that telescope! If any of you want to share their astro-journey with us always feel free to tag Guelph Physics on our socials or send an email to me directly! I’m always excited to hear from viewers and see what you get up to!

Well that's it! What an April we've got in store for us and 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!

Special thanks 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.


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