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 with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.
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, 2022:
Sunrise and sunset times:
|April 1||April 15||April 30|
|Sunrise||7:05 a.m.||6:39 a.m.||6:14 a.m.|
|Midday||1:29 p.m.||1:26 p.m.||1:23 p.m.|
|Sunsets||7:54 p.m.||8:13 p.m.||8:33 p.m.|
The moon has long captivated observers of all ages. April’s lunar phases of the moon occur as follows:
You may have noticed that there are two new moons this month.
While not uncommon to have the same phase twice in one month (a month is longer than the number of days between the same phase), it is still somewhat rare to have two new moons or full moons.
On the second full moon (April 30) there will be a partial eclipse of the Sun NOT visible from Canada.
We mention this in great anticipation of the total solar eclipse that will occur in April of 2024. On April 8, 2024, the “Great American Eclipse” will be visible from areas just south of Toronto. This will be the first total solar eclipse to come this close to Toronto and southern Ontario since January 24, 1925!
The bright planets are now all morning objects, visible before sunrise.
However, if you’re willing to get up early to get a good view, you’ll be treated to a lovely grouping of Saturn, Mars, the moon, Venus, and Jupiter all appearing relatively close together in the southeastern sky, 45 minutes before sunrise around April 25.
The best meteor shower in April is the Lyrid meteor shower peaking on the night of April 21/22.
Meteor showers are generally best observed after 1:00 a.m., however in this case, a last quarter moon rises in the morning and will make it considerably more difficult to view the shower itself.
On any given night in the dark skies of provincial parks, you might see as many as five to 10 meteors per hour, especially after midnight.
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).