The Griffith Observatory Sky Report
This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Here is what’s happening in the skies of southern California:
Now past its full phase and the accompanying lunar eclipse, the waning moon will rise later and later each night. Moonrise will advance from 9:10 p.m. on the 16th to 2:31 a.m. on the 23rd.
The planet Jupiter, in Gemini the Twins, outshines any nighttime star and can be seen high in the southwest during evening twilight. Jupiter sets in the west-northwest at 1:00 a.m.
The planet Mars, in Virgo the Maiden, is well positioned for evening viewing. Look for it, appearing brilliant and orange in the southeast during evening twilight. Notice that the brilliance of Mars is about the same as that of the brightest nighttime star, Sirius, about as high in the sky as Mars, but in the southwest. Mars is highest in the sky when it transits at midnight. When atmospheric conditions are favorable, Mars is currently a target of Griffith Observatory’s public telescopes.
Golden planet Saturn, in Libra the Scales, becomes visible after it rises in the east-southeast at 9:00 p.m. Saturn is highest when it transits in the south at 2:00 a.m. A telescope can show the northern face of the planet’s magnificent ring system, now tilted 22 degrees from edge-on in our direction. The moon will appear close to Saturn on the night of the 16th.
Venus, the brightest planet, rises in the east about two hours before the sun. The planet can still be seen at sunrise, 22 degrees above the horizon.
The Lyrid Meteor Shower reaches its maximum in the pre-dawn hours of April 22nd. The last quarter moon will hide the fainter Lyrid meteors, which can number about 18 per hour under ideal conditions. Lyrid meteors appear to stream from overhead, from a radiant point near Lyra the Lyre’s bright star Vega, at the start of dawn.
The launch of a SpaceX Dragon supply capsule to the International Space Station from Florida has again been re-scheduled, this time to 2:58 p.m., PDT on Friday, April 18. The launch can be followed live on NASA TV and the SpaceX webcast. An interesting feature of this launch will be the attempt to bring the rocket’s first stage to a controlled landing in the Atlantic Ocean as a test of a system designed to reuse rather than discard rockets.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, May 3.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.