Weekly Stargazing Tips

Provided by StarDate.org. Unless otherwise specified, viewing times are local time regardless of time zone, and are good for the entire Lower 48 states (and, generally, for Alaska and Hawaii).

April 20: Lyrid Meteor Shower

The Lyrid meteor shower should reach its peak tomorrow night. Under a dark sky, you might see up to a couple of dozen meteors per hour after midnight. The number of meteors increases closer to dawn, as your part of Earth turns into the meteor stream.

April 21: Last-Quarter Moon

The Moon will be at last quarter tonight. It aligns at a right angle to the line between Earth and the Sun, so sunlight illuminates one-half of the lunar hemisphere that faces our way.

April 22: Emptiness

It’s lonely here in the galactic suburbs. The distance to the Sun’s nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, is almost 29 million times the Sun’s diameter. At that scale, if you lived in a house that is 50 feet wide, your nearest neighbor would be farther than the Moon.

April 23: Time Bombs

Several time bombs are in view this evening. The list includes most of the bright stars of Orion, which is low in the west, plus Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, in the southeast. All of these stars are destined to explode as supernovae.

April 24: Moon and Venus

Venus, the “morning star,” perches just to the lower left of the crescent Moon at dawn tomorrow. As long as you have a clear eastern horizon you just can’t miss them.

April 25: 61 Virginis

61 Virginis is one of the nearest star systems with known planets. Under dark skies, the star is bright enough to see with the unaided eye. It is a little below Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, which is due south a couple of hours after sunset.

April 26: Beta Coma Berenices

Tonight, you can see a star that shows us roughly what the Sun would look like seen from 30 light-years away. That’s how far it is to Beta Comae Berenices, a Sun-like star that’s south of the Big Dipper’s handle in the faint constellation Coma Berenices.