Skywatch: It'll be easier to spot meteors under a darker sky


A dark moon will help your stargazing efforts this week, especially at week’s end but more on that in a second. The New Moon arrives at 9:57 p.m. Sunday night. That means light pollution will be at a minimum this week.

Courtesy: NASA

Saturn hits a milestone this week as well. At 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning the planet will reach aphelion. That is the point in Saturn’s orbit when it’s farthest from the sun. The ringed planet will be about 935 million miles from the sun at that point.

If you look in the morning sky this week you may be treated to the planet Saturn. Look in the southern sky before sunrise and it’ll shine brightly.

If you look closely just to the left of it you’ll find Mars and then a little farther away to the right and below Saturn, you’ll find Jupiter in the southwestern sky.

On Tuesday night you can go hunting for the young moon. A waxing crescent moon will be in the evening at dusk and Venus will shine brightly just to the right and above the fingernail moon.

As I mentioned earlier the darker sky will help with your stargazing this week but it also may help you find meteors. The Lyrid meteor shower is scheduled to peak early on the morning of the 22nd (Sunday) but the shower lasts from about April 16 to 25.

That means you may see some meteors in the days leading up the peak and on a moonless night it’ll be easier to spot the debris as it streaks across the sky.

The shower is caused by leftover debris from Comet Thatcher and during the peak anywhere from about 15-20 meteors are visible even though every so often an “outburst” of up to 100 meteors an hour are visible during the peak.

It’s tough to predict what years that happens but if you’re out later this week in the late evening and early morning hours look up towards Lyra in the ENE sky and you might see a shooting star as we get closer to the peak of the famous April shower. Happy hunting!