April has been named World Astronomy Month by Astronomers Without Borders, a US-based organization that brings together people who love seeing the night sky.
April is a noteworthy month for space-related events. Here are some of the major events that sky lovers should take notes about:
- Pink full moon April 5 and 6
- Comet 34P/PANSTARRS flies by on April 7
- Total solar eclipse on April 20
- Lyrid meteor shower April 21, 22 and 23
April 5 and 6 – pink full moon
On April 6 at 12:37 a.m. EDT, the first full moon in the Northern Hemisphere will be at its apogee. The full pink moon will be visible for the first time on April 5, however, due to peak illumination being so early in Eastern Time, Western time zones will see peak light on the eve of April 5.
From April 7 – Comet 34P/PANSTARRS is at its closest point in the flyby
In early April, Jupiter-family comet 364P/PANSTARRS will fly by Earth at a distance of 11 million miles. The comet will be in the constellation Vulpecula “Foxy”, and is expected to have a magnitude of about 12.3. Both the northern and southern hemispheres will be able to see it, but those in northern latitudes will be able to see it more clearly.
April 20 – Total solar eclipse
Although eclipses are usually exciting events, this eclipse has a unique feature. The extremely unusual cosmic alignment of the Earth, Moon, and Sun results in a total solar eclipse. The next solar eclipse will be the last until 2031 and the first since 2013.
On April 20, the new moon will partially block the sun’s light. The Moon will fail to produce a total solar eclipse for a brief period because it is too far from the Earth in its elliptical orbit to completely cover the Sun. You will see a short ring of fire over the Indian Ocean, but the moon’s shadow will completely block the sun.
April 21, 22 and 23 – Lyrid meteor shower
Lyrids are expected to begin late April 21 or 22 and last until dawn on April 23. On April 23 at 9:06 a.m. EST, the peak is expected. Despite the narrow summit of Lyrids, the April 19 new moon won’t stop observers from watching the night sky.
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