Planets, lunar eclipse and a chance of meteor showers!

Ok its well past time for a new post at Dogstar Observatory. The roof was open last night and even with the glare of a nearly full moon we had some great views of Jupiter and Mars. Just because it was there I snapped a photo of our neighbor moon with the Olympus DSLR mounted in place of the telescope eyepiece.

Mars reached opposition on April 8th and is as bright and big as it will get for the next 24 months. If you can stay up late, Saturn is also nearing opposition (May 10th) and will be getting steadily brighter and bigger. The rings are especially well positioned for great viewing this time so be sure to go out and take a look. It  rises around 9:30 and will be in the best viewing position after midnight. Next month it will riser earlier so you won’t have to stay up as late. For a detailed guide to all the planets visible this month check it this great guide from Earthsky.

The big event for the month is the lunar eclipse on the morning of April 15th. This is also one you will have to stay up late for since it does not get underway until around 2:00 AM. Totality will last from about 3:00 to 4:30 AM. If you have not seen a total lunar eclipse its well worth getting up or staying up for. Check out this NASA page for more information.

Next month we may be in for a real unusual meteor shower. The regularly occurring showers we have all seen are due to dust left over from  periodic comets that have crossed the path of Earth’s orbit over the past hundreds and thousands of years. On May the 24th a new comet (with the odd name 209/LINEAR) will make an unusually close approach to the earth. Since its passing so close to the Earth there is a chance that dust and ice from its passing could trigger and unusually bright meteor shower. Check back next month and I will post the latest information on predicted timing and intensity.



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