Frontenac winter stars

Eyes on the skies — April

Welcome to the Ontario Parks “Eyes on the Skies” series. This space (<– see what we did there?) will cover a wide range of astronomy topics.

For those of us in Ontario, April is that transition month between winter and spring weather. The snows start to melt away, the lakes start to open up and, by month’s end, the first buds may appear on the trees.

Here are our astronomical highlights for April, 2020:

The sun

The sun, having passed the Spring Equinox, continues to rise (and set) further north of due east (and due west). And, as usual, when the sun appears more northerly in the sky, the full moon that month appears almost equally further south.

Sunrise and sunset times:

April 30
Sunrise 6:10 a.m.
Midday 1:15 p.m.
Sunsets 8:20 p.m.

The moon

moonrise

April’s phases of the moon occur as follows:

phases of the moon

The planets

Venus continues to be a brilliant object high in the northwest at sunset and sets past midnight.

On April 28, it reaches its brightest magnitude, -4.51. Nearly 16 times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the sky!

Featured constellations: the Bears and a Dragon

In last month’s blog, we discussed some of the constellations that are prominent in the spring: Leo the Lion, Cancer the Crab and Coma Berenices (Queen Berenice of Egypt’s hair).

This month, we will focus on two of the most well-known, as well as one of the longest, constellations visible in the night sky: Ursa Major, the Great Bear (Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor, the Little Bear (Little Dipper).

bear constellation

For more information on this month’s constellations, click here.

Meteor showers

On the night of April 21 and 22, the annual Lyrid meteor shower will peak.

Known to be a medium strength shower, the Lyrids can produce exceptionally bright meteors known as “fireballs” (meteors as bright or brighter than Venus).

Because the moon is near new this year during the shower peak, there is a good chance to see them better than usual. Keep your eyes trained directly overhead to see the most of the show.

A meteor shower occurs when the earth enters the debris field of a comet that has long ago passed around the sun. These bits of dust and grit, often no bigger than your thumbnail, enter the earth’s atmosphere and burn up high above the ground.

This completes our review of April skies…