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Sky Report - April 2014

Jupiter (white) and Mars (yellow) shine in Evening and PreDawn Lunar Eclipse on April 15th

Seen all through April – The Big Dipper is high in the North and upside down, dumping its contents into the Little Dipper just below. The two leftmost stars of the Dipper's scoop point downward to the North Star. The North Star is at the end of the Little Dipper's handle. The Little Dipper, just as the Big Dipper has seven stars. The smaller Dipper can only be seen on clear, moonless nights away from streetlights.

If you extend the Big Dipper's handle outward, you will come to the bright golden star Arcturus, spring's brightest evening star. Go further along this arc and you'll see Spica, Virgo's brightest star. Above and to the right of Spica is the orange planet Mars. Mars is especially bright, being closest to the Earth in mid April.

There is a concentration of bright stars in the western evening sky ; these are the departing winter stars. There are three bright points that stands out; the middle point which shines steadily and brightest is the planet Jupiter. The bright point on the lower left is Sirius, the night's brightest star. The bright point on the right is the yellow star Capella.

Early April Sights – Both inner planets are visible before sunrise: brilliant Venus in the East and Mercury low in the Southeast. The orange or yellowish planet Mars is visible low in the Southeast as it gets dark, and climbs higher throughout the evening. Jupiter is high in the south at nightfall, dropping into the West in late evening. On the evening of April 4th, the crescent moon is near the bright star Aldebaran. On April 6th, the moon is close to the bright planet Jupiter. The evening moon appears half full on April 7th. On April 8th, Mars will be opposite the sun, rising at sunset and hanging in the sky all through the night.

Mid April Sights – The moon is full on the evening of April 14th, then appearing near the orange planet Mars and Virgo's brightest star Spica. Starting about 2 a.m. on April 15th, the Earth's shadow will creep across the western edge of the moon. The total eclipse (when the entire moon is in the Earth's deep shadow) begins at 3:06 a.m. Mid eclipse is at 3:45 a.m. The moon starts to emerge from the Earth's deep shadow at 4:25 a.m. (all times are Eastern Daylight Time). The color of the moon seen during the total eclipse is dependent on the atmosphere along the edge of the Earth that faces the moon during the eclipse. On April 14th, the orange planet Mars is closest to the Earth at a distance of 57.4 million miles. A telescope magnifying 120 power will show Mars as large as the moon appears to the eye.

Late April Sights – On April 17th, the late evening moon appears near the planet Saturn. The moon appears half full in the southern dawn sky on April 22nd. On April 26th, the crescent moon appears near the brilliant planet Venus in the southeastern dawn. On April 29th, the moon swings from the morning to the evening side of the sun (New Moon).

The Cumberland Astronomy Club will have their April meeting on Friday, the 18th at 7:30 p.m. at the LaVale Public Library. Beginners are welcome. Weather permitting, there will be telescopes set up to view the planets. The LaVale Library is about a mile to the East of the State Police Barracks on the National Road (U.S. 40).

By Dr. Bob Doyle

To contact Dr. Doyle, his mailing address is Planetarium, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD 21532 or by email at rdoyle@frostburg.edu.









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