Starry night.

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 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, 2021:

The sun

Sunrise and sunset times:

April 1 April 15 April 30
Sunrise 6:59 a.m. 6:34 a.m. 6:11 a.m.
Midday 1:21 p.m. 1:18 p.m. 1:15 p.m.
Sunsets 7:45 p.m. 8:01 p.m. 8:20 p.m.

The moon

The moon has long captivated observers of all ages. April’s lunar phases of the moon occur as follows:

April 2021 moon phases.

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

Find more information on this month’s constellations.

Meteor showers

On the night of April 20/21, 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 first quarter this year, it will be best to wait until it has set or after midnight to see these meteors.

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 (see our post on meteor showers for more information).

The galaxies: a partially solved mystery…

While galaxies can be seen all year long, the springtime night skies are the best time of the year to see the diversity and multitude of amazing galaxies.

Milky Way.

Galaxies are dynamic places with star birth, star death, and collisions of clouds of dust and gas.

Learn more about them here.