Geminid meteor shower

Geminid meteor shower, 2012 © Mike Lewinski

The Skywatcher's Guide is the Morrison Planetarium's guide to the skies for April through June 2017.

April 3

Moon at first quarter, having completed the first quarter of its orbit around Earth since the last new Moon. For observers in the northern mid-latitudes, the right-hand half of the Moon's Earth-facing side is lit by the Sun. This illuminated half is where we see the large, dark regions known as the Sea of Crises, the Sea of Serenity, the Sea of Tranquility, and the Sea of Fertility.

April 10

Full Moon, also known by the traditional Native American names "Egg Moon" and "Fish Moon" (Algonquin), the "Wildcat Moon" (Choctaw), and the "Strawberries Moon" (Natchez). You'll probably see the popular media refer to this by another Algonquin name, the "Pink Moon," but don't get fooled into thinking the Moon will look pink in color. Like many traditional names that relate to seasonal events, "Pink Moon" refers to the appearance of some of the first springtime flowers, known as Moss Pink (Phlox subulata).

Since this is the first full Moon on or after the March equinox, the following Sunday is Easter.

April 16

Easter. Told you.

April 19

Last quarter Moon, also known as a third quarter, because the Moon has just completed the third quarter of its orbit since the last new Moon and is about to begin the last quarter. In this phase, the Moon rises around midnight and is due south at sunrise, setting at about noon.

April 22

Peak of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, caused by dust from Comet Thatcher raining through Earth's atmosphere at high speed and burning up from the intense heat generated. This results in a display of about 15-20 medium-bright meteors per hour, radiating from the direction of the constellation Lyra the Harp, which contains Vega, the brightest star of the Summer Triangle. For San Francisco, the waning crescent Moon rises at 4:17 a.m., leaving skywatchers with a few hours of dark sky from midnight to moonrise, and even after that, moonlight won't be so bright that it severely interferes with viewing.

April 26

New Moon. First sighting of the youngest, thin crescent after this new Moon marks the start of Sha'ban, the eighth month in the Moon-based Islamic calendar. This sighting will be possible throughout most of the world after sunset on the 27th.

May 2

First quarter Moon in Cancer the Crab, due south at sunset. Although sometimes referred to as a "half-Moon," a Moon at this phase actually gives off less than one-tenth the light of a full Moon.

May 4

Peak of the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower, one of two displays caused by dust particles from Halley's Comet burning up upon entry into our atmosphere. The other shower related to the same comet is the Orionid shower, which is seen in October. Eta Aquarid meteors are generally fast-moving, radiating from the vicinity of the constellation Aquarius the Water-Carrier at a rate of about 10 per hour for observers in the Northern Hemisphere.

May 5

Spring equinox (first day of spring) for the northern hemisphere...on Mars, which is very low in the west an hour after sunset, six degrees north of the reddish star Aldebaran (the eye of Taurus the Bull).

May 10

Full Moon, rising at sunset against the stars of Libra the Scales. This Moon was also called the "Panther Moon" (Choctaw), the "Planting Moon" (San Ildefonso), and the "Moon of the Shedding Ponies" (Lakota Sioux)

May 18

Moon at last quarter, rising around 2 am against the faint stars of Aquarius the Water Carrier.

May 25

New Moon within six hours of perigee (the Moon's closest approach to Earth), bringing extreme tides in coastal areas. Sighting of the first thin crescent after this new Moon marks the start of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This sighting is possible just after sunset on May 26 in most of the Americas and most of Africa.

June 1

The Moon reaches first quarter at about 5 am, when it's still below the horizon. It rises at midday, around 1 pm, and is due south at sunset, the right-hand side of its visible face lit by sunlight.

June 9

Full Moon, traditionally known to Native American tribes as the "Windy Moon" (Choctaw), the "Corn Moon" (Laguna), "Ripening Time" (Mohawk), and the "Hot Weather Moon" (Ponca).

June 17

Last quarter Moon at 2:33 am PDT, shortly after it rises. By dawn, the Moon is high in the southeast.

June 20

June solstice at 9:25 pm, also commonly referred to in the Northern Hemisphere as the summer solstice, or the first day of summer.

June 23

New Moon. First sighting of the young crescent Moon following new marks the start of Shawwal, the eighth month of the Islamic calendar. This sighting is possible perhaps only from Ecuador and Peru on June 24, and from the rest of the world on the 25th.

June 30

The Moon, at first quarter and rising at midday, is located due south at sunset, and sets around midnight.

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2017 Pocket Almanac

2017 Pocket Almanac

Download the Morrison Planetarium's 2017 Pocket Almanac to stay up-to-date on eclipses, meteor showers, satellite spottings, and more.

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