Geminid meteor shower

Geminid meteor shower, 2012 © Mike Lewinski

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Know what's up. The Morrison Planetarium's Skywatcher's Guide is a quarterly compendium of heavenly happenings.

April 4

Moon reaches the last quarter during the wee hours, at 3:02 am PDT, while rising against the stars of Sagittarius the Archer. We see the Moon's western hemisphere (the eastern half of its Earth-facing side) directly lit by the light of the Sun, highlighting the large dark patch known as the Ocean of Storms. By sunrise, the Moon is located low in the south, gradually moving toward the southwest and finally setting in the southwest shortly before noon.

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April 11

New Moon at 7:31 pm PDT. Sighting of the first crescent after this new Moon traditionally marks the start of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Moon-based Islamic calendar. The Moon is still a bit too close to the Sun to be seen on the evening of the 12th, but observing it may be possible on the 13th just after sunset. Remember that the crescent's thinness and low elevation make it a challenge to see in the haze along the horizon combined with the glow of twilight.

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April 19

Starting from its new phase on the 11th, the Moon completes the first quarter of its orbit around Earth at 11:59 pm PDT. We see its eastern hemisphere illuminated by sunlight, with the terminator (the dividing line between its daytime and nighttime halves) running straight down its center.

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April 21-22

Peak of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, made challenging by the light of the waxing gibbous Moon. Details in Highlights.

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April 26

Full Moon, traditionally known as the Wildcat Moon to the Choctaw and as the Flower Moon to the Cherokee. An Algonquin name that has gained modern popularity is the Pink Moon—not because of its color but rather after wild ground phlox blossoms (also known as moss pink) that are among the first to appear after the end of winter. Located opposite the Sun in the sky, the full Moon rises at sunset and is visible all night, while the Sun is below the horizon.

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May 3

Moon at third or last quarter. These interchangeable terms come from the fact that the Moon has just completed the third quarter of its monthly orbit and is about to begin the fourth (or last) quarter, completing the cycle (also called a lunation) with the next new Moon.

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May 4

Peak of the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Viewing prospects and observing tips in Highlights.

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May 11

The first sighting of the young crescent after today's new Moon marks the start of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. This sighting may be possible from most of the Western US and Central America on the 12th, when the Moon has moved far enough away from the Sun's glow to be seen just after sunset.

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May 19

Moon at first quarter 12:13 pm PDT, located high in the south at sunset. After nightfall, look around it for the stars of the prominent Zodiacal constellation Leo the Lion.

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May 26

Full Moon. Known to indigenous Americans by various names, including the Planting Moon (Cherokee) or similarly, the Moon to Plant (Dakotah Sioux), and the Milk Moon (Algonquin).

The full Moon passes through Earth's shadow, causing a total lunar eclipse. Will you see it? Find out in Highlights.

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June 2

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

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June 10

Will today's annular solar eclipse be seen from anywhere in the United States? Find out in Highlights.

New Moon occurs at 3:53 am PDT, after which the first sighting of the young crescent marks the start of Dhul Qi'dah, the eleventh month of the Islamic calendar. This observation will be possible (though difficult in the glow of twilight) after sunset on the 11th, except in Asia and Oceania, where observers may have to wait until the 12th.

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June 17

Starting from its new phase, the Moon completes the first quarter of its orbit around Earth. It rises at midday and is located toward the south at sunset. Only half of its Earth-facing side is directly lit by the Sun's light, and the terminator (the line dividing the Moon's day and night sides) runs straight down its center. After the first quarter, the waxing Moon's growing light becomes an impediment to stargazing, which is why amateur astronomers usually try to avoid observing within a week of the full Moon, preferring the week before and the week after new, when the Moon is dim and not in the sky for very long.

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June 20

The June solstice (in the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice) occurs at 8:32 pm PDT. More information is in Highlights.

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June 24

Full Moon at 11:40 am PDT. Names given by indigenous Americans to this month's full Moon include the Rose Moon and the Strawberry Moon (both Algonquin) and the Flowering Moon (Ojibwe).

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Cosmic lectures

The Benjamin Dean lecture series brings the world's leading experts in astronomy, astrophysics, and more to the Academy's Morrison Planetarium. Stay tuned—lectures are coming back in a virtual format this June!