STAR WATCH FOR APRIL, MAY & JUNE, 2014

Spring, 2014 Schedule of Public Nights at the WCSU Planetarium & Observatory (Westside Campus)

Date                       (Saturdays)

Sunset Time

Planetarium Show

Sky Viewing               (if clear)

Objects Visible

Mar. 29

7:14 p.m. EDT

7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

8:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Jupiter, Algieba, Mizar & Alcor, M44, early spring sky

Apr. 19*

7:36 p.m.

7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

8:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Mizar & Alcor, Algieba, early spring sky, Mars

Apr. 26

7:43 p.m.

7:30 – 8:30 p.m.

8:30 – 10:30 p.m.

Mizar & Alcor, spring sky, M13, Mars, Saturn

May 10

7:59 p.m.

8:00 – 9:00 p.m.

9:00 – 11:00 p.m.

Moon, Mizar & Alcor, spring sky, M13, Mars, Saturn

* Please note that this is a change from the originally scheduled April 12 public night.

The facility is located atop the hill between the Westside Campus Center and the Pinney Hall dormitory. Limited parking is avail-able around the facility, with additional parking on University Boulevard.

Public Nights may be cancelled due to severe weather or hazardous road conditions. Call 837 – 8672 on the day of an event, for updates. Sky viewing cannot be held in cloudy or precipitating weather, but planetarium shows are usually held.

Planetarium shows are appropriate for adults and older children, but generally not for infants or toddlers.

NIGHTLY SKY CALENDAR

*or ! – interesting to very interesting celestial event
!! – 'must-see' event
E – calendar or geometry- related event (such as a solstice)

Mar. 27

 

Moon at perigee (365,703 km or 227,237 miles)

29

*

Free PUBLIC NIGHT at the WCSU Planetarium & Observatory facility. Planetarium show, 7 to 8 p.m. Sky viewing (if clear), 8 to 10 p.m. To be viewed (if skies are clear): Jupiter, Algieba, Mizar & Alcor, M44 and other early spring sky objects.

30

 

New Moon

Apr.7

 

First Quarter Moon

8

!

Mars reaches opposition to the Sun, rising from the east around sunset and visible all night. The north polar cap is tilted toward Earth during spring Mars oppositions, whereas the opposite pole is seen during late summer/early autumn oppositions. However, because Mars’s orbit is about 9% eccentric, it also appears noticeably larger in telescopes for the latter case.

8

 

The Moon reaches apogee at 404,500 km [251,344 miles] from Earth’s center.

13

*

The asteroid Vesta reaches opposition at magnitude + 5.8 in Virgo, at 13 hours 45.4 minutes Right Ascension and  + 2 degrees 48 arc-minutes Declination.

14

*

The nearly-Full Moon passes near Mars, which is bright and closest to earth (about 58 million miles).

15

*

The dwarf planet Ceres reaches opposition at magnitude + 7.0 in Virgo, at 13 hours 51 minutes Right Ascension and + 3 degrees 34 arc-minutes Declination.

15

!!

FULL Pink MOON. A total lunar eclipse occurs between 3:06:47 a.m. and 4:24:35 a.m. EDT. The partial phase preceding totality starts at 1:58:19 a.m., and the partial phase following totality ends at 5:33:04 a.m. The Moon does not pass across the center of the Earth’s umbral shadow, so totality is short: just under 1 hour 18 minutes.

16/17

*

The Moon passes close to Saturn (closest around 3 a.m. on the 17th ).

19

*

Free PUBLIC NIGHT at the WCSU Planetarium & Observatory facility. Planetarium show, 7 to 8 p.m. Sky viewing (if clear), 8 to 10 p.m. To be viewed (if skies are clear): Mizar & Alcor, Algieba, early spring sky, Mars.

22

 

Last Quarter Moon. The Moon reaches perigee at 369,765 km [229,761 miles] from Earth’s center.

26

*

Free PUBLIC NIGHT at the WCSU Planetarium & Observatory facility. Planetarium show, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sky viewing (if clear), 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. To be viewed (if skies are clear): Mizar & Alcor, spring sky, M13, Mars, Saturn.

29

 

New Moon

May 6

 

First Quarter Moon. The Moon reaches apogee at 404,318 km [251,231 miles] from Earth’s center.

6

!

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks around 3 a.m.; look East. The Moon will not be visible, so this is a good night to view the shower. From a dark location with a clear sky, an observer could expect to see several dozen fast meteors per hour.

10

*

Saturn reaches opposition to the Sun, rising from ESE around sunset and visible all night. On this date, we view the northern side of the rings, tilted almost 22 degrees to us. The rings span an angle of 42.4 arc-seconds (larger than Jupiter), but the planet itself spans only 18.7 arc-seconds. (Jupiter’s angular size on May 10 is 34.4 arc-seconds.)

10

*

Free PUBLIC NIGHT at the WCSU Planetarium & Observatory facility. Planetarium show, 8 to 9 p.m. Sky viewing (if clear), 9 to 11 p.m. To be viewed (if skies are clear): Moon, Mizar & Alcor, spring sky, M13, Mars, Saturn.

14

 

FULL Flower MOON

18

 

The Moon reaches perigee at 367,102 km [228,106 miles] from Earth’s center.

21

 

Last Quarter Moon

24

!!

A new meteor shower is predicted to peak between 3 – 4 a.m.  from a radiant point just below the North Star. This is debris from Comet 209P/LINEAR. The Moon’s phase (waning crescent) is favorable for seeing lots of meteors from otherwise dark locations. Some computer models predict that this will be the strongest meteor shower in 2014.

25

*

Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation (23 degrees from the Sun). Look for it (an object of magnitude + 0.4) in the WNW after sunset.

28

 

New Moon

June 3

 

The Moon reaches apogee at 404,954 km [251,626 miles] from Earth’s center.

5

 

First Quarter Moon

7

*

The waxing gibbous Moon passes near Mars.

13

 

FULL Strawberry MOON

14

 

The Moon reaches perigee at 362,065 km [224,976 miles] from Earth’s center.

19

 

Last Quarter Moon

21

E

The summer solstice (Sun farthest north in our sky) occurs at 6:51 a.m.

27

 

New Moon

30

 

The Moon reaches apogee at 405,930 km [252,233 miles] from Earth’s center.

 

PLANET INFORMATION                                                                                                                                 MERCURY is visible in the ESE predawn sky in mid-March. During most of April, it is too close to the Sun to be seen, but it reappears in the western sky after sunset during May and reaches greatest eastern elongation on May 25. Mercury vanishes back into the Sun’s glare after the first week of June.

VENUS appears in the SE predawn sky, increasing its distance from the Sun during March and reaching greatest western elongation (47 degrees) from it on March 22. It remains in the predawn sky during April, May and June, rising from East to ENE as those months progress. Venus passes between the Pleiades and Hyades during the last week of June.

MARS, in Virgo, rises by mid-evening in March. The Red Planet is brightening and will look larger in telescopes as it approaches opposition on April 8. The table below shows the apparent magnitude and angular size in seconds of arc (“) of both Mars and Jupiter during this time period; Jupiter (see the below entry) is usually the planet that appears largest in telescopes, though Venus when a thin crescent phase can surpass it. Mars is still conspicuous and moderately high in the evening sky during May and June.

Date

MARS Magnitude

MARS     Angular Size (“)

JUPITER Magnitude

JUPITER Angular Size (“)

Mar. 10

- 0.8

12.7

- 2.4

41.1

Mar. 20

- 1.0

13.8

- 2.3

39.8

Mar. 31

- 1.3

14.7

- 2.2

38.5

Apr. 10

- 1.5

15.1

- 2.1

37.3

Apr. 20

- 1.4

15.1

- 2.1

36.2

Apr. 30

- 1.2

14.5

- 2.0

35.2

May 10

- 1.0

13.7

- 2.0

34.4

May 20

- 0.7

12.8

- 1.9

33.6

May 31

- 0.5

11.8

- 1.9

32.9

Jun. 10

- 0.3

10.9

- 1.8

32.4

Jun. 20

- 0.1

10.2

- 1.8

32.0

Jun. 30

+ 0.0

9.5

- 1.8

31.7

JUPITER, in Gemini, remains well placed, high in the evening sky, throughout the spring. (Gemini’s location at sunset gradually shifts westward because of Earth’s orbital motion. By June, Jupiter will be low in the western early evening sky and will become difficult to observe.

SATURN, in Libra, rises around midnight by mid-March. It reaches opposition on May 10, rising around sunset and visible all night. It remains high in the evening sky during June.


GENERAL INFORMATION about the planetarium and observatory:

  • Public Nights are free, but we do accept donations in the planetarium and in the hyperbolic funnel ("black hole") in the lobby.
  • Planetarium shows will be held as scheduled, rain or shine, unless severe storms or hazardous driving conditions are predicted. The telescope cannot be used if skies are cloudy or precipitating. (Use the National Weather Service link, above, to see the forecast for any scheduled Public Night date.)
  • Parking is very limited (4 to 6 vehicles) atop the hill where the facility stands, but more is available on University Boulevard (the main Westside Campus road).
  • The planetarium has a seating capacity of 40. The telescope chamber can accommodate 6 to 8 at one time, with additional standing space on the stairs.
  • Planetarium shows usually last about one hour and are geared to adults and families with preadolescent and older children; i.e., older than baby or toddler. Younger children may be disturbed by the dimming of lights in the planetarium and other special effects.
  • It is requested that people attending planetarium shows turn off mobile phones, digital cameras and other electronic devices, as their use during the show is disturbing to others. The same request holds for flashlights, lighted sport shoes and other sources of illumination.
  • The observatory houses a 20-inch f/8.1 Ritchey-Chretien reflecting telescope that is used for public observing and astronomy research by WCSU students and faculty. It has a German-type equatorial mounting (the telescope has counterweights) and a computer controlled pointing and tracking system.


DRIVING DIRECTIONS to the WCSU Observatory and Planetarium: 

        The facility is located on the WCSU Westside Campus, which is off Exit 4 (Lake Avenue) of Interstate 84. After exiting the Interstate, travel about 0.7 mile west on Route 6 to the main campus entrance, then another 0.7 mile up the main campus road, University Boulevard. You will pass Centennial Hall (new dormitory) on your left; continue straight. At the new Campus Center, turn left and proceed a short distance to the observatory road, which will be on your left and facing the Pinney Hall dormitory. SLOWLY turn onto the road--preferably coming in from an angle--as the entrance apron is steep; we don't want you to bottom out!

        Parking is very limited (4 to 6 vehicles) atop the hill where the facility stands, but more is available on University Boulevard (the main Westside Campus road).


      

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