~ St. Maarten’s Backyard Astronomy for April 15 & 16 ~

Sun rises at 5:55am

Sun sets at 6:29pm

Moon phase: 3rd quarter moon, gibbous waning

Moonrises at 10:26pm

Moonsets at 4:55am

This weekend enjoy the stars and planets in the evening hours, as the moon is rising fairly late. Most of the evening hours will offer a dark tableau on which to see more stars than on a moonlit night. Even better if you venture out to an area where few lights shed glare and diminish your night vision eyesight. Dark is truly beautiful for star gazers all over the world.

After sunset, look west to see Mars hugging close to the Pleiades, which is always twinkling like a jewel. Above Mars and just to the left another bright star catches the eye: it’s Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. Hold out your hand with two fingers up in the “Peace Sign” and point the fingers at Aldebaran, you should be able to make out the horns of the bull forming a “V” - follow the line from the Pleiades to the Bull’s horns and you will encounter Orion – the hunter with his three stars in a row forming his belt. Orion stands at an angle in our sky this weekend, he’s a laid-back hunter it seems, check the bright star Betelgeuse at his shoulder and his foot marked by the star Rigel. A nice straight line can be seen from Mars to Aldebaran to Betelgeuse.

Turn around and look east from at about 8:00 to 9:00pm and you will see Jupiter rising along with the bright stars Arcturus in the constellation Bootes and Spica in the constellation of Virgo. By 11:15pm the moon will be up and trailing along behind the moon is the planet Saturn. The Moon and Saturn have bright stars to the left and right as they make their ascent into the sky. Vega in the constellation of Lyra is on the left and Antares in the constellation of Scorpio is on the right.

Throughout the night the constellation of the Southern Cross is holding court in the southern sky, close to the horizon, it traces a low arch from south east to south west, followed by the bright stars Hadar and Rigil Kentaurus (which is actually a double star, hence the double name.)

For the week ahead, please, be aware we will have the Lyrids Meteor Shower on before dawn on April 22. That is hours before the next Weekender comes out, so make a note for early next Saturday morning. You might see as many as 10 to 20 meteors per hour! Though the Lyrids are usually a modest show, it has been known to produce fireballs which are exceptionally bright meteors. Meteor showers are notorious for being fickle, so you really never know for sure what’s in store unless you watch.

Thank you for keeping up with the Night Sky articles. If you are out later on in the week, each star rises about four minutes earlier each day than written here, and the moon rises 50 minutes later. Night Sky is researched and compiled by Lisa Davis-Burnett. Earthsky.org is a key resource for information and images. Questions or comments? Email lisa@thedailyherald.com.

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