Observing the sky of April 2021

Ricardo Cardoso Reis, Planetário do Porto and Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences. Photo: DR

The old saying goes, “April, thousand waters”. This month is statistically one of the rainiest months of the year, which usually means a few days of clear skies. But as you can only predict when it will rain accurately, only 3 days in advance, here are some celestial events to look for, in case it doesn’t rain.

During this month, the two largest planets in the Solar System can only be observed by the early risers or by the owls, because in the beginning of April, Saturn is born at around 5 am and Jupiter at around 5:30 am, while on the 30th it is already starts to see Saturn around 3:15 am and Jupiter around 4:00 am. Both planets will be visible until the sun rises, which happens around 7:20 am on day 1 and shortly after 6:30 am on day 30.

On day 4, the Moon reaches the waning quarter and on day 6 it passes just 5 degrees from Saturn. As it rises around 5 am, we continue to see it even after the sun rises.

On the 7th, the Moon passes 5 degrees from Jupiter and on the 12th it reaches the new moon phase. On the 17th, already illuminated at 25%, the Moon passes 3 degrees from the planet Mars, both in the constellation of Taurus. This constellation, as well as the constellations of Orion and Dog Greater, are visible as soon as nightfall, between Southwest and West.

On the 20th the Moon reaches the first quarter. Two days later, the Lyrids’ meteor shower occurs. The constellation of Lira, where the radiant is located (the point from which the meteors seem to emanate), is born in the Northeast, shortly after dark. Although it is not the most intense rain (only 10 meteors per hour are expected, in dark skies) and the maximum is expected to be at 2 pm, you should still be able to observe some meteors, especially after the moon sets, around from 4:30.

If you decide to wait for the Lyrids, take the opportunity to observe the Moon, which passes south at 10 pm, in the constellation of Leo.

This was a giant lion that lived on the Moon and attacked the chariot of Selene, the goddess of the Moon, who promptly expelled him to Earth. It fell near Neemeia, Greece, where it began to attack people. Many lost their lives trying to kill it, as their skin was practically impenetrable.

Killing the Lion of Nemea was the first of Hercules’ twelve works, but with the impenetrable skin, the hero only succeeded after strangling the animal. Then, Hercules decided to remove his skin, to use as protection during the remaining eleven jobs. To do this, he used the only thing that managed to penetrate the animal’s leather – the claws of the Lion himself!

To close the month, on the 27th you can see the “super” full moon, that is, a full moon that coincides with the perigee (point of closest approach to Earth) of our satellite, therefore appearing slightly higher than the average in our heaven.

Good observations.

The Moon in the constellation Leo, passing south, at 10:00 pm on April 22, 2021
The Moon in the constellation of Leo, passing south, at 10 pm on April 22, 2021. Photo: Ricardo Cardoso Reis / Stellarium

Author: Ricardo Cardoso Reis, graduated in Astronomy from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP). He is currently completing his master’s degree in Science Teaching and Dissemination, also from FCUP. He has been working for more than 20 years in science communication, promoting scientific culture and non-formal education. Currently belongs to the Science Communication Group of the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences, the largest national research unit in the area, and to the Porto Planetarium – Centro Ciência Viva, the largest digital planetarium in Portugal. He is an effective partner of the Portuguese Astronomy Society, the Association of Astrophysics of the University of Porto and the SciComPT Network, having belonged to the latter’s social bodies in the 2017-2020 period.

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