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Friday, April 5, 2013

What's up for April 2013

Stars and Constellations
For the past few months we've been focused on the bright stars and constellations of Orion, Taurus, Canis Major, Gemini, etc. During the early evenings of April, these stars are getting lower and lower  towards the West each day.
The bright reflected light of Jupiter is still visible in this part of the sky close to Taurus. By next month most of these stars will begin to disappear from view.

From April onwards, we start to shift our attention to the bright stars of the South, including the second brightest star in the night sky, Canopus, part of the constellation Carina. Canopus was also known in China as “Old Man of the South” for its southern location and sometimes red appearance in hazy or cloudy conditions.
The constellations Puppis, Vela and Carina form the ancient star pattern of the Argo Navis, representing the sailing ship from an Ancient Greek legend. 
The asterism (star pattern) the False Cross is sometimes confused for the Southern Cross (Crux), located nearby to the east.
Lying close to a dense part of our Galaxy, The Milky Way, several star clusters can be found when scanning the  area with binoculars.

1) & 2) M46, M47 – Two faint open clusters, east of bright star Sirius. M47 is the closer and brighter of the two. Small telescopes maybe required.
3) M93 – Faint wedge-shaped star cluster over 3000 light years away but visible in binoculars.
4) IC2391 – large open cluster of 50 stars surrounding the star Omicron Velorum. Best viewed using binoculars.
5), 6) ; 7) IC2581, NGC3293  NGC3114   Three fainter open star clusters located in front of the rich spiral arm of the Milky Way. Binoculars and small telescopes required.
8) Eta Carinae Nebula (NGC 3372) – a gas cloud surrounding the explosive variable star Eta Carinae. Several more stars are visible through binoculars and telescopes.
9) NGC3532 -  A large bright open cluster containing more than 100 stars forming an elliptical shape, 1300 lightyears away.
10) IC2602 (The Southern Pleiades)  Large open cluster of around 60 stars surround star Theta Carinae. Easy to spot with binoculars .

Every year planet Saturn makes it appearance in the sky when it approaches opposition, i.e. when the Earth moves into alignment with both Saturn and the Sun. This period results in the closest distance between Saturn and Earth and the brightest and biggest view of Saturn in the sky.

Opposition occurs on 28th April 2013. So can we can expect to be observing Saturn at SCOB during the later part of the month.

Here are the dates for the main moon phases this month. We will be observing the Moon at our Friday night stargazing sessions on Friday 19th April and Friday 26th April.

Full Moon on 25th/26th April 2013 will result in a Partial Lunar Eclipse over Singapore, when the Moon enters the outer edge of Earth's shadow (the penumbra). However, this is only a very small eclipse, therefore the Moon will only darken slightly during 2am-6am on Friday 26th April, (Singapore time).
We will not be holding any eclipse viewing event at SCOB.
It may be difficult to notice any change in the moon's brightness.
Lyrids Meteor Shower
Finally, 21st/22nd April is the annual Lyrids Meteor Shower, one of the brightest showers of the year. We will not be organising any meteor shower events because most meteors cannot be seen in a bright urban environment like Singapore.
You can increase you chance of seeing a few meteors by going to a wide open area such as a sports field, beach or reservoir, but the frequency of meteors may only be about one or two per hour.

Meteor showers are best observed from midnight til dawn. Lyrid meteors originate from the north-east direction but can appear in any part of the sky.