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Quick look at what’s happening astronomically in April 2014

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April is the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar, and the fifth in the early Julian calendar. April had 29 days on calendars of the Roman Republic, with a day added to the month during the reform in the mid-40s BC that produced the Julian calendar. The name comes from the Aprilis, the Roman name for the month of April. The derivation of the name is uncertain but is believe to be associated the Roman verb aperire meaning "to open" and possibly the Greek word anoixis (opening).

Moon:

  • First Quarter Moon: April 7
  • Farthest from Earth: April 8 (252,421 miles – mini Moon)
  • Full Moon: April 15 (and total lunar eclipse see details under special events)
  • Last Quarter Moon: April 22
  • Closest to Earth: April 22 (229,761 miles – super-size Moon)
  • New Moon: April 29

Planets Visible:

Early evening:

  • Jupiter: Face south, look for the brightest star near overhead.
  • Mars: Look for a bright star low on the eastern horizon rising directly east one hour after sunset at the beginning of the month. Mars will be well above the eastern horizon at sunset by month’s end.

Morning before sunrise:

  • Mars will be visible setting in the west the first week of the month
  • Venus will be visible on the eastern horizon all month, but will become increasing difficult to see as it gets closer the rising Sun at month’s end
  • Saturn will be visible in the southwest at the beginning of the month, but will be lost in the morning daylight by month’s end.

Sun:

  • April 19: The Sun enters the astronomical constellation Aries.
  • April 20: The Sun enters the astrological sign Taurus.

Earth:

  • April 14: Passover begins on the evening of the Full Moon after the spring equinox.
  • April 20: Easter, the first Sunday after the first Full Moon (April 15 for Denver) after the spring equinox.

Meteors:

  • April 22: The Lyrid meteors peak. Typically there are 10-20 meteors per hour, but can be in excess of 90 per hour. Some can be very bright. Best viewed between 1am and 3am.

Special Events:

  • April is Global Astronomy Month. It was created in 2010 by Astronomer’s Without Borders as a project of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy. More information can be found here.
  • April 3: The Moon will be to the right of the bright star Aldebaran in Taurus. Look west in the evening.
  • April 5: Chamberlin Observatory Open House weather permitting. The observatory’s 20” telescope and telescopes belonging to members of the Denver Astronomical Society will be available for viewing. Click here for more information.
  • April 6: The Moon is between Jupiter (right) and Procyon (left). Look overhead in evening.
  • April 8: Mars closest to Earth at 57.4 million miles
  • April 14: Mars at it brightest for the next two years
  • April 14: Moon is below Mars and very close (4 o’clock from the Moon) to the star Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. Look east in the evening. Because the Moon is so close and bright, you may need binoculars to see Spica.
  • April 14-15: Total eclipse of the Moon (Times are for Mountain Daylight Time and Denver in particular. Local times vary depending on your location within the time zone and for different time zones. For detailed local information go here)
    • Eclipse starts (first contact): April 14 at approximately 11:58pm MDT.
    • Totality begins (second contact): April 15 at approximately 1:07am MDT.
    • Mid eclipse: April 15 at 1:46am MDT
    • Totality ends (third contact): April 15 at approximately 2:25am MDT.
    • Eclipse ends (forth contact): April 15 at approximately 3:33am MDT.
  • April 17: The Moon will be very close to Saturn. Look east after 11pm MDT, south at 3:00am MDT, or southwest before sunrise.
  • April 25: The Moon is above Venus. Look east before sunrise
  • April 26: The Moon is left of Venus. Look east before sunrise
  • April 27: Solar eclipse visible in Antarctica

Historical Trivia:

  • April 4, 1947 – Largest number of sun spots ever recorded
  • April 9, 1959 – NASA names the original seven astronauts for Project Mercury: Scott Carpenter, Gordon (Gordo) Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil (Gus) Grissom, Walter (Wally) Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Donald (Deke) Slayton. Note: Gus Grissom died in the Apollo 1 fire at Cape Kennedy, Florida on January 27, 1967. Deke Slayton died from complications of a brain tumor on June 13, 1993. Alan Shepard died after a lengthy illness on July 21, 1998. Gordo Cooper died from heart failure on October 4, 2004. Wally Schirra died of a heart attack on May 3, 2007, Scott Carpenter died of a stroke at the Denver Hospice Inpatient Care Center at Lowry on October 10, 2013. John Glenn at 92 is the last living of the original seven Mercury astronauts. He resides in Columbus, Ohio.

Wishing you clear skies

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