Night Lights: Spring stargazing dims as daylight lengthens

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Days are getting longer and nights are getting shorter, thus this will be my last column before fall. The winter constellations, Orion, Gemini, Taurus, Canis Major and Auriga with all their bright stars, are now visible in the west, setting during the late evening.

Leo, with its bright star Regulus, is speeding across the sky, so I perceive Leo as the harbinger of spring. When it appears in the east, winter’s end will soon be here, and when it reaches the western horizon, flowers are in full bloom and deciduous will have regained their leaves. In addition, the summer triangle comprised of the bright stars Vega, Deneb and Altair reappears in the Northeast.

Planets visible in the evening and all night include:

Saturn is visible all night long, forming an acute triangle with Spica and red Arcturus. Look for them near the Southeastern horizon. Saturn doesn’t stand out, as it is about as bright as the other two stars. Find them by following the Big Dipper’s handle, which curves toward red Arcturus, then beneath it find Spica on the right and Saturn on the left, completing that acute, almost right triangle. The full moon appears to Saturn’s lower right April 25.

Jupiter is visible, next to Taurus’ red giant Aldebaran and with the star cluster Pleiades nearby. It appears until late evening, moving from the south to the northwest, setting around midnight. It is joined by the waxing crescent moon April 14. Sky & Telescope’s April edition states that they “pair beautifully.”

Jupiter is the brightest wanderer in the sky. Venus is in superior conjunction (on the other side of the sun) and will not be visible again until fall of this year. Once it emerges from behind the sun (in April), it’s already late spring and the evenings are too bright for too long, so this evening planet is too close to the Alaska horizon.

All other planets — Mercury, Mars, Uranus and Neptune — appear too close to the sun, so that they can’t be seen against the bright daytime sky.

The Lyrid meteor shower can be viewed in the early morning hours of April 22. The constellation Lyra with its bright star Vega is high above the southern horizon. As the meteors seem to emanate from that spot in the sky, look all around Lyra.

Comet Panstarrs is visible after sunset in the northwest, low on the horizon. But don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t show very well. Probably binoculars are needed.

Andy Veh is an associate professor of physics, math and astronomy at Kenai Peninsula College.

1 Comment

Filed under astronomy, Night Lights

One response to “Night Lights: Spring stargazing dims as daylight lengthens

  1. Pingback: Night Lights: Spring stargazing dims as daylight lengthens | Start the day right

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