Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 30: Mars Sets 1 Hour After the Sun


Anyone wanting to view
Mars of late had better hurry up as the rapidly dimming Red Planet is now setting just 1 hour after the Sun. To see Mars this evening, go out just after the sky starts to dim in the evening and look low in the West. If it is clear, you will see a bright, reddish 'star' that, is in fact, the planet. How low is it? Mars is now below Mercury!

To aid in one's planet hunting, a pair of binoculars is a good idea as, while the planet itself is rather bright (magnitude +1.5), you will be fighting the bright sky, which can make finding it difficult.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 29: Antares on the Rise


We may not even be all the way into spring, but the stars of summer are coming around in the predawn sky. The most distinctive of them all, perhaps, is Antares, the red supergiant that is the alpha star of the Zodiac constellation of Scorpius. To see Antares, look low in the Southern predawn sky about 2 hours before sunrise, there's no other star quite like it.
 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 28: Moon at Apogee


Tonight, the Moon is about as small as it will ever get thanks to the fact that the Moon is at apogee, a point in its orbit that is farthest from Earth.


What many people may not realize is the fact that the Moon (and all other celestial bodies) do not orbit their parent bodies in circles, but ellipses, which are slightly elongated circles. Result: any given day of an orbital period, any orbiting body will be at a slightly different distance from its parent body. As for the Moon, this variance in orbit amounts to about 20,000 miles.

As for tonight, the Moon will be about as far from Earth as it is going to get. When it comes to practical implications, the difference will be hard to notice with the naked eye to all but an experienced observer but, in a telescope,
the difference will be obvious.

As an afterthought, while two full moons taking place in a single month get a lot of hype even in the non-astronomical media, apogee moons don't, which is a bit of a shame in that April, 2015 offered a pair of apogee moons, with the first taking place on April 1. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 27: Moon Meets Regulus

New to astronomy? Want to see bright Regulus, alpha Leo, but don't know where to look? Well, it's your lucky night as the Moon will be right next to the Regulus this morning.

To see Regulus, just go out before sunrise and look East. The Moon is, of course, impossible to miss. As for Regulus, it's that bright star near Luna. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 26: Moon, Jupiter, and the Hive


Tonight, there will be a 3 in 1 cosmic show that will be easy to spot for even the absolute beginner. The show: a meet-up of the
Moon, Jupiter, and the Beehive Cluster. The key to the whole enterprise: the Moon, which is impossible to miss. Moon found, look for the bright 'star' very close to it. That 'star' is, in fact, the planet Jupiter. As for the Beehive Cluster, eagle eyes or low power binoculars are needed to resolve the large cluster of stars near the Moon and the planet.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 25: Astronomy Day/First Quarter Moon

Today marks a little known holiday: International Astronomy Day, which began as a 1-club event and eventually spread to encompass the entire world.
With humble origins as an attempt at public outreach by the Astronomical Association of Southern California, the effort to bring astronomy to the masses, often city dwellers, quickly grew in popularity to the point where the holiday eventually went national, and then international. Now, over 40 years after the first Astronomy Day (1973) the holiday continues to grow and become more relevant.

Why the part about being relevant? Simple: dark skies are going away fast.

When the first Astronomy Day was launched in 1973, the whole idea was to set up telescopes in public places where astronomers could show members of the general public the wonders of the universe. Naturally, to guarantee that the public would show up, the telescopes had to be set up in urban/suburban locations, areas that are not all that good for astronomy. Obviously, by looking at the success of the holiday, people are seeing things in the telescopes.

Lesson of the day: you can do astronomy from just about anywhere.

For starters, Astronomy Day is always coordinated to coincide as best possible with First Quarter Moon as it is always visible as it is the second brightest thing in the sky after the Sun. Believe it or not, there are astronomers who spend the majority of their telescope time studying the Moon. Second, planets. All of the planets are generally of 0 magnitude or brighter, thus visible from all but the most light polluted areas. Being bright targets, the planets are also good targets for examination by city-dwellers. For suburbanites, binary (double, triple, etc.) stars are also a lot of fun to look at because they, too, can be observed in all but the worst of lighting conditions.


So yes, the dark skies are going away more every year but, if you know what to look for and are content with the fact that you may not be able to see deep sky nebulae, galaxies, and clusters from your backyard, there is plenty of fun to be had with a telescope in a city.

On top of the festivities, the Moon, second brightest object in the sky, has reached the First Quarter phase, which means that it is exactly 90 degrees around its orbit of Earth and is one quarter finished with its current orbit..

As for lunar mechanics, the Moon is always half lit. The reason we don't always see it as such is thanks to orientation in relation to us. Right now, with the Moon at a 90 degree angle relative to the Earth-Sun line, we only see half of the lit side.

After today, we will see more of the Moon each night as its lit side turns more toward from us and heads toward Full in a week.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 24: Canes Venatici Near Zenith at Midnight


Tonight, a small, rather new constellation called Canes Venatici (Hunting Dogs) will be near zenith (straight overhead) at around midnight. While it is not a well-known constellation, to find it, look for the familiar pattern that is the Big Dipper. The Dogs are the two stars underneath the Dipper's handle and the brighter of the two, Cor Caroli, is a spectacular blue-white double star when seen in a telescope at around 50-100x. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 22-23: Lyrid Meteors Peak

Tonight/tomorrow morning will mark the peak of the Lyrid Meteor shower for 2015, thus marking the climax for the 2-week event. Every April, Earth passes through the stretch of space junk shed by Comet C1861 G Thatcher, reaching the deepest concentration of debris tonight. According to some estimates, under ideal conditions (dark country skies), one can expect to see 15 meteors per hour. The reason the meteors are called Lyra is because the meteors seem to radiate from the constellation Lyra. The best time to view the shower is in the wee hours of the morning, as Lyra is at its highest then.

Don't want to stay up that late? Don't worry, Lyra clears the Eastern horizon around midnight and will climb higher as the night progresses. However, unless one lives out in the country, the early post-midnight hours will probably involve Lyra being low in a light dome. To improve odds of seeing meteors, travel out of the city and to the country if you can. In the suburbs, just going from the front to back yard can make a dramatic difference as this will eliminate glare from those pesky street/house lights to a large extent.

Fortunately, this year's Lyrid peak coincides with the waxing crescent Moon, which means that nature's night light will be a non-issue early and out of the sky completely by the wee hours of the morning when Lyra is at its highest. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 20: The Moon, Clusters, and Venus


Tonight, there is going to be quite a show just after sunset, the entirety of which is visible to the naked eye! To see the sights, simply head out in the early evening as the sky starts to dim and look West. The Moon will be impossible to miss. Moon found, look above it and try and spot a cloudy patch of sky larger than the Full Moon. This haze is actually the Pleiades, one of the closest star clusters to Earth. Also known as the Seven Sisters, try and see how many individual stars you can spot. Below and left of the Pleiades and close to the Moon, look for a sideways 'V' of stars set off by bright orange Aldebaran, alpha Taurus. This cluster is the Hyades, which makes up the cosmic bull's nose. If that were not enough, Venus is nearby, too. The best part, no optical aid is required!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 19: Young Moon Meets Mercury, Mars


How thin of a
Moon have you seen? How about one that's less than 2 days old and only 3% illuminated? Well, if you have never seen a Moon this thin, tonight's your chance to do so as such a Moon will be making an appearance in this evening's sky just after sunset.

To see the Moon, you'll need a good Southwestern horizon. How good? One with less than 10 degrees of obstruction. To simulate this, hold a fist vertically at arm's length to simulate 10 degrees. Hint: if you can't think of a good location off-hand, scout out one during the day. Location found, head there about 45 minutes after sunset and start scanning the horizon with your binoculars.

Don't see the Moon right away? Don't panic, as the sky dims, the Moon will get easier to see, which means that it will often just suddenly 'pop' out of the darkness. Believe me, when it does, it's an exhilarating experience.

To add to the show,
Mars and Mercury will be within a few degrees of the Moon, which is close enough to fit them both in the field of 7x50 binoculars at the same time.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 18: New Moon

Today, the Moon, second brightest object in the sky, has reached the New Moon phase, which means that it is directly between the Sun and Earth, and thus invisible for us Earthlings as of now.

As for lunar mechanics, the Moon is always half lit. The reason we don't always see it as such is thanks to orientation in relation to us. Right now, with the Moon directly between the Earth and Sun, e can't see any of its lit side.

After today, we will see more of the Moon each night as its lit side turns more toward from us and heads toward first quarter.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 16: Moon at Perigee

Tonight, the Moon is about as big as it will ever get thanks to the fact that the Moon is at perigee, a point in its orbit that is closest to Earth.


What many people may not realize is the fact that the Moon (and all other celestial bodies) do not orbit their parent bodies in circles, but ellipses, which are slightly elongated circles. Result: any given day of an orbital period, any orbiting body will be at a slightly different distance from its parent body. As for the Moon, this variance in orbit amounts to about 20,000 miles.

As for tonight, the Moon will be about as close to Earth as it is going to get. When it comes to practical implications, the difference will be hard to notice with the naked eye to all but an experienced observer but, in a telescope,
the difference will be obvious

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 15: Can You See Mercury Yet?

You may have noticed that there was no mention of Mercury, first planet from the Sun all month. Why? Well, it's been rendered invisible by the Sun's glare all month. Well, that's going to be changing in a big way by month's end as Mercury will rapidly rise, leading to a great appearance just after dusk in the next 2 weeks. However, it is already up (barely) in the dusk sky immediately after sunset. To see Mercury, scout out a location with virtually no obstruction due West, which is where the speedy planet will pop out of the twilight sky. How low will you need to look? About three degrees up from the horizon. To simulate, a little finger held at arm's length spans about a degree of sky. Needless to say, binoculars are a must!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 14: The Active Sun



Sunspot AR2321 has twisted magnetic fields that NOAA say can produce a X-class flare and/or a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. Either one of these events can produce aurora, also known as the Northern Lights. Needless to say, be alert for aurora in the coming nights, especially if you live in high Northern latitudes and, if that were not enough, more sunspots are coming around the solar limb and onto the EArth-facing side of the Sun.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 13: International Dark Sky Week Begins



Starting tonight and running through the week, there is a little-recognized, international event going on: International Dark Sky Week, which serves to raise awareness about astronomers' desires to preserve the night sky, the hazards of light pollution, and the vast amount of money wasted on wasted energy.
So, what about Dark Sky Week?
Any astronomer knows that there is nothing like artificial lighting, commonly termed “light pollution,” to ruin a good night's observing. As an extension, after one views at a true dark sky site, it may be hard to ever want to observe from home again as the situation will seem utterly depressing. For people who are not used to looking up at the night sky, there are still ways to notice all the light. Have you ever looked up in the sky to see reddish-pink clouds or gone out on a night with freshly fallen snow and found it nearly as bright as day? Well, that's further, non-astronomical proof of light pollution.
So why should non-astronomers care? There are many reasons.
First: money. Believe it or not, about 50% of all outdoor lighting is wasted. How is this done? Simple, lighting left unshielded emits light in all directions, not just to the ground where it is intended to go. So, for every dollar paid on an electric bill for lighting costs, 50 cents of that is spent on light that serves no purpose other than to light the night sky.
Second: wildlife. Unlike humans, animals don't have clocks with which to tell time. With the increase in artificial light, some species are getting their days and nights mixed up, which can throw off sleep patterns and thus, through the creation of tired animals, increase chances of predation. Also, it is thought that some birds use the Moon and stars for navigation. Obviously, without the starry signposts, the birds may be getting lost. Perhaps the best known problem of light pollution is with sea turtle babies. Which are increasingly finding their way away from the ocean to to lighting on coastal cities.
Third (and something everyone should care about): human health. Believe it or not research is starting to show that not even we human are immune from the effect of artificial lighting. With all the extra light, the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, is impacted, thus leading to sleep disorders, which can then branch out to create other health problems. Some new research even suggests that the artificial lighting/the interruption of natural sleep patterns can create an increased risk for some cancers. However, it should be known that this research has just begun and the exact reason for the correlations is unknown.

In short, there are many reasons for caring about light pollution, even for non-astronomers. Between money, health, and the environment, light pollution does much more harm than just washing-out the beautiful night sky.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 11-12: Venus and the Pleiades


Tonight and tomorrow,
Venus, second planet from the Sun and brightest as seen from Earth, will be very near the Pleiades star cluster in the dusk sky. To see the show, go out as the sky gets dark and look West for the brightest thing you see, which will be Venus. Then look for a hazy patch of sky about the sizer of the Full Moon near the planet. This patch is the Pleiades star cluster (it looks like haze because many individual stars are too faint to resolve with the naked eye). For more fun, grab a camera with a telephoto lens and/or a pair of binoculars as both tools will reveal the star cluster for what it truly is. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 10: Third Quarter Moon

Today, the Moon, second brightest object in the sky, has reached the Third Quarter phase, which means that it is exactly 270 degrees around its orbit of Earth. 

As for lunar mechanics, the Moon is always half lit. The reason we don't always see it as such is thanks to orientation in relation to us. Right now, with the Moon at a 90 degree angle relative to the Earth and Sun, we see the Moon as half lit and half dark, leading to the popular, erroneous phrase 'half Moon.'

After today, we will see less and less of the Moon as its lit side turns more away from us and heads toward a new lunar cycle.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 9: Mercury at Superior Conjunction

Today, the planet Mercury has reached superior conjunction. What does that mean? In layman's terms, Mercury will be directly opposite the Sun as seen from Earth in a Mercury, Sun, Earth alignment. End result: the planet will be at its worst point for viewing. Unfortunately, unlike inferior conjunctions wherein a planet moves directly between the Sun and Earth, superior conjunctions result in longer periods of invisibility (though in the case of Mercury, not that long).  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 8: Moon Meets Saturn

New to astronomy? Want to see the planet Saturn but don't know where to look? Well, it's your lucky night as the Moon will be right next to Saturn throughout most of the night.

To see Saturn, just go out during the latter half of the night and look for the
Moon, which is, of course, impossible to miss. As for Saturn, it's that bright 'star' right next to Luna. The way to tell that Saturn is a planet? Unlike stars, it doesn't twinkle thanks to the fact that it shines from reflected light.

In a binoculars, Saturn looks oval in shape thanks to the rings. In a telescope, Saturn's rings pop out just like in text book pictures. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 7: Hydra's Head Due South at Dark



Don't have a watch? Well, no problem, at least at midnight as Hydra (or at least its head), is just about due South at 12 midnight. To see it, just go out, look South, and about a third of the way up from horizon to zenith (straight overhead). While it may not exactly ump out at you, there is an oval of stars that represents the snake's head. For the record, Hydra is the largest constellation in the sky, spanning over 100 angular degrees of sky. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 6: Uranus at Conjunction


Today, the planet
Uranus has reached conjunction with the Sun. What does that mean? In layman's terms, Uranus will be directly opposite the Sun as seen from Earth in a Uranus, Sun, Earth alignment. End result: the planet will be at its worst point for viewing. As a point of trivia, for the inferior planets (which go through conjunction when they pass opposite and between the Earth and Sun) this would be called a superior conjunction. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 5: Moon Meets Spica

New to astronomy? Want to see bright Spica, alpha Virgo, but don't know where to look? Well, it's your lucky night as the Moon will be right next to the Spica this morning.

To see Spica, just go out before sunrise and look East. The Moon is, of course, impossible to miss. As for Spica, it's that bright star near Luna. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 3-4: Full Moon/Total Lunar Eclipse


Tonight and leading into tomorrow morning (hence April 3 and 4's feature), sky watchers in North America will be treated to one of the most spectacular, and rare, of all celestial sights: a 
total lunar eclipse. So, with the eclipse coming within a day, why not start understanding what you will see and why you will see it now?

Total lunar eclipses occur when the Sun, Earth, and Moon fall exactly into line ion that order. Unfortunately, because the Moon orbits the Earth on a slightly tilted axis, the Moon rarely falls into earth's shadow, thus becoming eclipsed. Or perhaps this is a good thing as, if there was an eclipse at every Full Moon, eclipses wouldn't be all that special, would they? Okay, personal opinions aside, every now and then, at a point on its orbit called a “node,” the Moon crosses into the Earth's shadow, thus resulting in an eclipse.
So, what can one expect to see?

First, the eclipse takes place over the course of several hours. First up: the penumbral phase where the Moon moves into the lightest part of Earth's shadow, called the penumbra. At this point, one may or may not notice a slight darkening of the Moon.

See also: Start to finish lunar eclipse gallery.

Next up: the partial stages. In the partial phases, the Moon starts moving into the darkest part of the Earth's shadow, called the umbra. In this phase, the Earth's shadow will start to eat into the corner of the Moon, eventually coming to the point where the Moon looks like a crescent, but at an otherwise impossible angle. In time, more and more of the Moon will disappear into the Earth's black shadow until the entire lunar disc is consumed.

Phase 3: totality. Near the point where the Moon completely disappears into the Earth's shadow, it will begin to take on a very distinctive, reddish color thanks to the scattering of light rays caused by our atmosphere. Basically, the particles in the air scatters all the colors of the visible spectrum, with the exception of the reds, away into space, thus only allowing the red light to fall on the Moon. Totality can last for around an hour, give or take a few minutes either way. For something interesting, compare the number of stars you can see during totality to the number you can see when the Moon is full. Basically, totality is effectively a Moonless sky. For the record, deepest eclipse will take place about 6:30am EDT on the morning of the 8th. Live West of the Eastern Time Zone? Well, subtract an hour for each time zone West you reside.

After totality ends, the Moon will again go through partial phases, becoming more and more exposed as time progresses. In time, the partial stage will end, the second penumbral stage will begin, and the the Moon will eventually go back to normal.


Now, before getting too excited, there are two points to consider with this eclipse . . .


First (and not unusually) not everyone in North America will be privy to the event from start to finish. For anyone living in the Eastern U.S., you will only get to see a partially obscured Moon at moonset. Moving to the Great Plains, a totally eclipsed Moon will be visible at moonset while people living on the West Coast will get to see the Moon start to reemerge from totality as it sets. To see the event in entirety, living in Alaska or Hawaii is a must.

As the second item of note, totality will only last about 5 minutes, making this the shortest totality of a total lunar eclipse in over 100 years. For people familiar with eclipses, the far-rarer total solar variety often last as long if not a few minutes longer! Needless to say, be sure to check your local times !

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 2: Mars Sets 2 Hours After the Sun


Anyone wanting to view
Mars of late had better hurry up as the rapidly dimming Red Planet is now setting just 2 hours after the Sun. To see Mars this evening, go out just after the sky starts to dim in the evening and look low in the West. If it is clear, you will see a bright, reddish 'star' that, is in fact, the planet.

To aid in one's planet hunting, a pair of binoculars is a good idea as, while the planet itself is rather bright (magnitude +1.4), you will be fighting the bright sky, which can make finding it difficult.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The April Sky

With the new month of April here, the lengthening of the days will continue at a brisk pace as the equinox is still within recent memory. By month's end, staying up late to observe under dark skies will become a chore for many. On the good news front, for much of the country, April is usually the first month of the year where the persistent winter clouds finally break with regularity, revealing the stunning celestial sights that had been so often shrouded in clouds for the first 3 months of the year.

Cool Constellations
If March was the last time to see many winter constellations under dark sky conditions, April is the last chance to see them, period. So, come sundown, look low in the West-Southwest for Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Perseus, Orion, Canis Major, and Canis Minor. A few later/more Northerly winter constellations, including Auriga, Taurus, Gemini, and the Pleiades are now in that twilight zone where one needs to observe them under dark skies now or miss them for the year. By the time April rolls around, the Big Dipper signpost to the stars is well up for all to see. Starting at the Dipper, follow the arc of the Dipper to bright orange Arcturus, alpha Bootes, and the brightest star in the spring sky. To the left of the kite-shaped Bootes, look for the arc of stars that is Corona, the crown. Next, speed onto blue Spica, alpha Virgo, and one of the brightest spring stars. Next, continue the curve to trapezoidal constellation Corvus, the crow. Finally, conclude in dim Crater the cup. Moving higher in the sky, zodiac constellations Cancer and Leo are well-placed as well. Speaking of Cancer, look just below the cosmic crab for a distinct ring of stars, the head of Hydra, the sky's biggest constellation, which snakes (sorry) through over 120 degrees of sky. For those who like to stay up late (or get up extremely early), there's mythological strongman Hercules and the Summer Triangle high overhead and, to the South, Ophiuchus, Serpens, and Scorpius. However, unlike in previous months, the later time of year will not bring new predawn constellations thanks to the Sun, which is rising dramatically earlier by month's end.

Planetary Perceptions
Like March, April is looking to be another 5 for 5 planet month. At dusk, Earth's two planetary neighbors, Mars and Venus, will continue to be easy dusk objects. As was the case last month, Venus will continue to climb out of the dusk twilight while Mars will begin to slowly sink in the Southwest, setting roughly 2 hours after the Sun at month's start but only about an hour after come month's end. Moving later into the night, Jupiter is well-placed for prime-time viewing as it rides high and due South at true nightfall. Additionally, Saturn continues to re-emerge from the Sun's glare in the predawn sky. By month's end, the ringed wonder will be just about due South at dawn. Last but not least, speedy Mercury will reemerge from the Sun's glare starting around mid month at twilight in what is shaping up to be its best evening appearance of the year, which will take place in the April to May transition.

Young Moon Season
Want to find the Holy Grail of naked-eye astronomy? Well, you're in luck as spring is Young Moon season, which runs through June and features wire-thin, barely there crescents just after sunset. The funny thing: many people who call Full Moons light pollution will plan young Moon hunts weeks in advance. So, why the change in attitude?

Young Moons are, besides quite aesthetic, rare, very rare. To sight a Young Moon under 24 hours old (and even one under 30 hours old), all the conditions need to line up just right. If everything goes perfectly, on the day after New Moon, or even on the same day sometimes, just past sunset, a wire-thin crescent will pop out low on the horizon among the Sun's last rays. Needless to say, when dealing with a Moon less than 2% illuminated, binoculars are a must.
So here is why the Young Moon is so difficult to spot:

1. Timing. If New Moon is timed too close to sunset, it will be lost in the Sun's glare on the day of New Moon and will be way past a day old come the next night. A 36 hour Moon is no challenge, pure and simple.

2. Clouds. If it's cloudy, there's no seeing the Moon.

3. Light. Young Moon hunters are forced to fight twilight. With the Moon only 1-2% lit, just the act of spotting the Moon low on the horizon in such light conditions is a challenge because that is where the Sun is. A saving grace can be (and was for me both times) a nearby planet, Mercury and Venus, respectively. If you can use a bright planet as a marker, it is a lot easier to estimate where the Moon will appear once the sky gets dark enough.

4. Haze. Even more so than during the day, haze makes its presence known at dusk, looking similar to wispy clouds on the horizon. While the biggest problem during the summer, haze can even appear in winter, too. Even a crystal-clear day can produce haze on the horizon at dusk. While the haze will quickly dissipate come dark, that's too late for the Young Moon.

These difficulties compounded with horizon issues showcase why Young Moons are the Holy Grail of Lunar observers. Now for the good news: spring is Young Moon season. Because of the near vertical ecliptic at sunset, the Young Moon will hang higher in the sky now than any other time of year, which is good. For Young Moon Hunters, March through May (even June depending on time of month) is an ideal time to look. By the time July rolls around, the ecliptic is undeniably flattening too much to make observing the Young Moon really feasible.
Get out while you can!

Future thin crescents:
April 19: 31 hour Moon
May 18: 22 hour Moon
June 17: 36 hour Moon

Interesting Astronomical Tidbit: Thanks to convenient timing, the Moon will reach a point in its orbit called apogee twice this month. For more details, look below . . .

Tonight's Sky for April 1: Moon at Apogee
Tonight, the Moon is about as small as it will ever get thanks to the fact that the Moon is at apogee, a point in its orbit that is farthest from Earth.

What many people may not realize is the fact that the Moon (and all other celestial bodies) do not orbit their parent bodies in circles, but ellipses, which are slightly elongated circles. Result: any given day of an orbital period, any orbiting body will be at a slightly different distance from its parent body. As for the Moon, this variance in orbit amounts to about 20,000 miles.

As for tonight, the Moon will be about as far from Earth as it is going to get. When it comes to practical implications, the difference will be hard to notice with the naked eye to all but an experienced observer but, in a telescope,
the difference will be obvious.