SkyWatching April 2014


A total lunar eclipse is visible the night of April 14-15 across the western hemisphere. (NASA image)

Sun

There is a solar eclipse at new moon on April 29.  A ring eclipse is visible from parts of Antarctica and a partial eclipse in Australia and the southern Indian Ocean.

Throughout the month, the sun rises earlier each day as indicated in the table below.

Date Sunrise Sunset
April 1 6:34 a.m. 7:16 p.m.
April 15 6:10 a.m. 7:32 p.m.
April 30 5:48 a.m. 7:48 p.m.

Times are Central Daylight Time for Chicago, Illinois, from US Naval Observatory calculations.

daylight_1404

The chart above, constructed from US Naval Observatory data, shows the amount of daylight throughout the year with the month of April shaded in blue.  (Click the image to see it larger.)  The chart reflects the increasing amount of daylight shown in the table above.

Moon

Phase Date/Time Moonrise Moonset
First Quarter 04/07/14 (3:31 a.m.) 12:17 p.m. 2:40 a.m. (04/08)
Full Moon 04/15/14 (2:42 a.m.) 7:08 p.m. (04/14) 6:18 a.m. (04/15)
Last Quarter 04/22/14 (2:52 a.m.) 1:55 a.m. 12:34 p.m.
New Moon 04/29/14 (1:14 a.m.) 6:08 a.m. 8:27 p.m.

Times are Central Daylight Time for Chicago, Illinois, from US Naval Observatory calculations. (For mjb)

 

 

The events of the Lunar Eclipse of April 14-15, 2014. The best views are from 2:06 a.m. CDT to 3:24 a.m. (NASA Image)

The events of the Lunar Eclipse of April 14-15, 2014. The best views are from 2:06 a.m. CDT to 3:24 a.m. (NASA Image)

On the night of April 14-15, the moon moves into the Earth’s shadow.  Observers across the western hemisphere see a total lunar eclipse with the best part occurring from 2:06 a.m. through 3:24 a.m. on April 15.  No special equipment is necessary the eclipse.

Every planet and moon project a two-leveled, round shadow into space.  From the darker center of the shadow (umbra), the sun is completely blocked.  From the outer shadow (penumbra), the sun is partly blocked.   Because the moon shines from reflected sunlight, the moon loses its brightness when in passes into the umbra.  Sunlight from the earth’s atmosphere gets bent into the shadow causing the moon to gently glow in a coppery color as in the image at the top of this posting.

 

Here are the events of the eclipse:

April 14, 7:08 p.m. (CDT) — Moonrise
11:53 p.m. — The moon begins to move into the penumbra.  For most purposes, no change in the moon’s brightness is visible.
April 15
12:58 a.m. — The moon begins to move into the umbra and a partial eclipse begins.  During the next 68 minutes larger portions of the moon are darkened.
2:06 a.m. — The total lunar eclipse begins.
2:45 a.m. — The total eclipse is half-finished.  This is known as “greatest eclipse.”
3:24 a.m. — The total eclipse is finished.  A partial eclipse occurs in reverse with larger portions of the moon moving back into sunlight.
4:33 a.m. — The partial eclipse is finished and the moon is in the penumbra.  No change in the moon’s brightness is visible.
5:37 a.m. — The eclipse ends.
6:18 a.m. — Moonset

(All times are Central Daylight Time.  Make adjustments in the time zone for other regions.)

Morning Sky

Mercury hangs low in the eastern sky hidden in bright sunlight early in the morning.  On April 25, the speedy planet reaches the far side of the sun (superior conjunction) and moves into the evening sky next month.

Venus continues to dominate the morning sky.  Now after greatest elongation and its greatest separation from the sun, it rises about 1 hour, 45 minutes before the sun.  For more about Venus as a Morning Star, read our article.

lune_ven_1404

On the mornings of April 25 and April 26, the moon appears near Venus.  On April 25, the pair is 6 degrees apart; on the next morning they are 8 degrees apart.

ven_nep_1404
For experts:  On the morning of April 12, planet Neptune appears near Venus, less than one degree. While this is not naked eye, Neptune should appear as a bluish “star” to the lower right of Venus as seen through binoculars.  A modest size backyard telescope is needed to see the globe of Neptune.

Saturn rises before 10 p.m. throughout the month and it is well placed in the morning sky throughout the month.

lune_sat_1404

Two mornings after the lunar eclipse, the waning gibbous moon appears less than 2 degrees to the left of Saturn.

Evening Sky

Mars reaches opposition on April 8.  At this time, the planet rises in the eastern sky at sunset, appears in the southern sky at midnight, and sets in the western sky at sunrise.  Mars and the sun are on opposite parts of the sky.  Alternately, our planet is between Mars and the sun.  The planet is currently moving westward compared to the starry background.  For more about this evening appearance of Mars, read our article.

Jupiter appears high in the southern sky at sunset.  It is in front of the stars of Gemini.

lune_jup_1404

The moon appears near Jupiter on the evening of April 6.

The Visible Solar System

sol_sys_1404

The chart above shows the planets visible to the unaided eye on April 15, 2014, as seen from above.  (Click the image to see it larger.)  Jupiter is well placed in the evening sky.  Mars is entering the evening sky as it is just past opposition.  Saturn and Venus are in the morning sky as well as Mercury, but the speedy planet is moving toward superior conjunction.

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