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The Skies of April, 2022
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by Dick Cookman
April 2, 2022
Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, April Moon
Focus Constellations: Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Perseus, Auriga, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Lynx, Leo Minor
C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) is in western Hercules in April. It will be closest to Earth on July 14, 2022, and will reach perihelion on December 19, 2022. It is at 9th magnitude and may reach naked eye visibility near perihelion. C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) is in Gemini at 10th magnitude in April. It reached perihelion on January 9 and was closest to Earth on January 6. C/2021 O3 (PanSTARRS) is an 11th magnitude Oort Belt comet in Cetus. In late April, if it survives passage through perihelion on April 20, it will move into Aries and possibly approach naked eye visibility. It may be seen after sunset above the west northwest horizon in late April, and could be brightest when closest to Earth on May 8.
On March 14, after sampling Ch’ał-type rocks at a hill called Santa Cruz, Perseverance began its journey to the delta on Jezero Crater’s edge. The 3 mile trip involves covering more distance in a single month than ever achieved by any Mars rover. Perseverance‘s companion, the Ingenuity helicopter, completed its 21st flight, so NASA extended its mission through September. Ingenuity will scout for the rover when it reaches the 130 foot high delta and attempts to reach promising sampling sites in the rough terrain.
The InSight lander survived the latest Martian dust storm, emerging from “safe mode” on January 17. Science instruments came back online on February 15. InSight’s solar panels now produce almost as much power as before the storm, enabling the lander to continue science operations into the summer. Curiosity Rover surmounted rough terrain on the rock layers that cap Greenheugh Pediment in the first part of March. As it approaches the Gediz Vallis Ridge, the rover is currently traversing an area on the pediment with numerous sharp, angular rocks which have been sandblasted by windborne sand and silt.
Although the Lyrid Meteor shower is April’s best northern hemisphere shower, it will have to compete with the glare of the waning gibbous Moon. The Pi Puppids are a Southern Hemisphere shower.
- April 22: Lyrids. Active Apr 16-25, Radiant 13h00m -04°, ZHR 5 – 10, 30km/sec. Waning Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: C/1861 G1 (Thatcher)
- April 23: Pi Puppids. Active 15-28, Radiant 7h20m -45°, ZHR 0 to 40, 18 km/sec. Waning Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: Comet 26P/Grigg-Skjelleru.
Mercury (-1.8 to +0.6) in Pisces and Taurus, and Uranus (+5.9) in Aries are evening planets in April. Mercury is brightest after Superior Conjunction with the Sun on the 2nd and appears higher in the western sky each evening until Greatest Eastern Elongation on the 29th when it is 21 degrees from the setting Sun. On the 17th, it is less than 2 degrees NNW of Uranus in Aries.
Mars (+1.1 to +0.9) in Capricornus and Aquarius is getting brighter in April as Earth and Mars move closer to their December Opposition. After the April 2nd clustering of Venus, Mars, and Saturn in the eastern sky less than an hour before sunrise, Mars will be 0.3° south of Saturn (+0.9) on the 4th. Neptune (+8.0 to +7.9) in Aquarius is near the eastern horizon in the predawn sky in April. It is next to Jupiter (-1.9 to -2.0) on the 12th and Venus (-4.2 to -4.0) passes by on the 27th when both are slightly above the waxing crescent Moon. Venus approaches Jupiter on the 30th when all three are in the predawn eastern twilight below Mars and Saturn which are farther south.
|Sun||Pisces, Aries||-26.5||New Moon|
|Mercury||Pisces, Taurus||-1.8 to +0.6||Superior Conjunction|
Maximum East Elongation 21°
|Venus||Capricornus, Pisces||-4.2 to -4.0||Neptune, 0.0N|
|Mars||Capricornus, Aquarius||+1.1 to +0.9||Saturn 0.3°N||6:00PM EDT||4/4|
|Jupiter||Aquarius, Pisces||-1.9 to -2.0||Neptune, 0.1°S|
|Saturn||Capricornus||0.9||Mars, 0.3°S||6:00PM EDT||4/4|
|Neptune||Aquarius||+8.0 to +7.9||Jupiter 0.1°N|
April has two New Moons. The first in Pisces on the 1st at 2:24AM EDT is the start of Lunation 1228 which ends 29.59 days later with the second New Moon of April in Aries on the 30th at 4:28PM EDT. The second New Moon introduces Lunation 1229 which ends on May 30. This 2nd Nee Moon also produces a partial solar eclipse in southern South America, Antarctica, and over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.The Full Moon of April is on the 16th at 2:55PM EDT. It is in Virgo and is the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. The Sunday following the first full moon after the equinox is when Easter occurs which can be as early as March 22 and as late as April 25. This year it is April 17.
The April Full Moon is called Egg, Grass, or Thunder Moon. It was the “Planter’s Moon” in Colonial America and the “Seed Moon” in Medieval England. Celts called it “Growing Moon”, and the Chinese call it “Peony Moon”. Of 13 Grandmother Moons during each year, the Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people call it the “Sugarbushing Moon” (Iskigamizige-giizis) – western dialect or Pokwaagami-giizis (Broken Snowshoe Moon) – eastern dialect. According to the folks at Earth Haven Farm in Ontario, the 4th Grandmother Moon is the Pink Moon or Sucker Moon and the cultural teaching that explains the cycle of life and nature for the Sucker Moon of Creation is that in April: “Sucker goes to the Spirit World in order to receive cleansing techniques for this world. When it returns to this realm, it purifies a path for the Spirits and cleanses all our water beings. During this time we can learn to become healers.”
Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on April 7 at 3:11PM EDT, when the Moon will be at a distance of 251,306 mi. (63.41 Earth radii). Lunar Perigee distance (minimum lunar distance) is 226,890 mi. (57.25 Earth radiil) on the 19th at 11:13AM EDT.
A waning crescent Moon appears to pass Mercury on the 1st and Uranus on the 3rd. It passes Saturn on the 24th, Mars on the 25th, Venus and Neptune on the 26th, and Jupiter on the 27th.
|Planet||Constellation||Magnitude||Moon Passages||Moon Phase||Moon Age|
|2:24AM EST, 4/1|
4:28PM EST, 4/30
|Mercury||Pisces||-1.8||2.3°SE, 12:00AM EDT, 4/1||Waning Crescent||29.48 Days|
|Venus||Aquarius||-4.0||4.0°S, 10:00PM EDT, 4/26||Waning Crescent||25.82 Days|
|Mars||Aquarius||0.9||4.0°S, 6:00PM EDT, 4/25||Waning Crescent||24.65 Days|
|Jupiter||Pisces||-2.0||4.0°S, 4:00AM EDT, 4/27||Waning Crescent||26.07 Days|
|Saturn||Capricornus||0.9||5.0°S, 5:00PM EDT, 4/24||Waning Crescent||23.61 Days|
|Uranus||Aries||5.9||0.6°S, 1:00PM EDT, 4/3||Waxing Crescent||2.53 Days|
|Neptune||Aquarius||7.9||4.0° S, 11:00PM EDT, 4/26||Waning Crescent||25.86 Days|
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