The Nighttime Sky Of Spring
The gas giant Saturn displaying its ring system.
Here on earth as we go about our busy lives, possibly every few moments taking a glimpse downward...contemplating about the days activities,or possibly trying to be so careful as not to step on a crack in the sidewalk.
In hopes that as we make our way down the street, if we do step on a crack,that it will not bring with it-fear or some unfortunate run of bad luck that could soon follow as a result.These are all common things that we as humans tend to find ourselves doing from time to time.
However there are things that we do often forget about, things that have nothing to do with everyday problems as described in this illustration that I just gave. We tend to let the more meaningful and beautiful things of life escape our thoughts.
For example instead of looking down all of the time, at that crack in the sidewalk, take some time to look up. Particularly on a dark night to gaze in awe at all of the spectacular wonders of the heavens, that the creator gave us to enjoy. This month of April in particular, will be a very eventful month, in terms of observing the beautiful night time sky of spring.
Now that old man winter has let go of the icy bonds that he had us in for the past few months. We can now put down that cup of hot chocolate, but keep the brandy close at hand, just in case, a bitter chill comes upon us by surprise. Overall viewing the sky now, should be much more inviting and enjoyable with the waning of winter. The evenings are not as bone-chilling cold and maybe a light jacket is all that's needed to go out with to view the skies above.
With April well on its way, we certainly have more enjoyable things to do. And if your like me, than you may enjoy feasting your eyes upon the heavens like I often do. If this is true in your case, than get a hold of a few friends and head down to the local planetarium or just go out in your own backyard. Wherever you go, the darker the surrounding area, the easier it will make for viewing the night time sky of spring.
The Constellation Leo the Lion introduces the coming of spring. Sitting high in the sky after the early hours, a bright star, that marks Leo's heart is a sparkling gem, by the name of Regulus. Regulus sets the stage for a splendid viewing invitation.
Beckoning the rest of the night sky to come to life and join Leo in the night time skies of Spring. . April is also a month that not only welcomes spring, but it plays host to a number of other different celestial objects and events that can be observed with or without the aid of a telescope. One of those events is the famous Lyrid Meteor shower.
The lyrid meteors acquired their name, because the focal point; of from where the majority of these meteors can be seen originating from out of the night sky, is found to lie within the Constellation Lyra. The constellation Lyra is also home to the brilliant bright blue-white star Vega. To add, the ring nebula (M57) lies in Lyra as well.
The ring nebula was the result of a massive explosion that occurred thousands of years ago, which in turn created the small circular object, that appear in the field of small telescopes, as a small smoke ring. This supernova explosion, was thought to be witnessed by many of ancients at the time, including the ancient Chinese.
When looking for the lyrid meteor's,most of us observers here on earth will be able to see approximately 15 to 20 fairly bright meteors per hour. So its not so much persistence that comes into play here, but patience. The Lyrid meteor shower also peaks on the 22nd of April. So to remind you about this event, go outside and plant a tree by day.
And at night celebrate earth day by observing the Lyrid meteors by night. From mid-night until the wee hours of the morning; you will be able to see a spectacular display of meteor type fireworks.
And if this isn't enough to get your heart pumping, than train your eyes upon the darkness of the South, Southeast sky. There rising slowly against the atmospheric aberration of planet earth, will be the the second largest planet in our solar system. Saturn and it's magnificent ring system will be following the imaginary line in the sky that is called the ecliptic.
By midnight - depending on the time of the year, Saturn will be high enough in the sky for all to enjoy with the naked eye. Also Saturn's rings will appear to be at a forty-five degree angle to earth and will appear to be opened. Just to reiterate, Saturn's rings can only be viewed with the aid of a very high power binoculars, or similar optical aid capable of distinguishing Saturn's ring system. Which also depending on time of the year. Can be situated edge on to the earth. If this is the case, then the ring system will be invisible for a few months.
By mid-month this jeweled wonder, shines in a soft yellow-white hue, as heaven's blanket lies enveloping her from behind. A powerful telescope will reveal a few of Saturn's many moons that orbit and occasionally eclipse the face of the planet. A few of these satellites or moons that you might observe with the telescope, are enceladus and Titan.
Titan is Saturn's largest moon consisting of a dense atmosphere. And lying below it's cloud shrouded atmosphere lies a methane ocean. Imagine an ocean as large as possibly that of the Pacific; but unfortunately much more frigid and most likely, an inhospitable environment to swim in. This is one place in the solar system, where you don't have to worry about bringing the beach blanket!
There are also a variety of nice globular clusters as well as nebulae and galaxies that can be observed with both the naked eye and a pair of binoculars. So I suggest before you head out into the darkness take a look at the video that I have included at the beginning of this article. It will give you some assistance in where to look for these objects. In addition a good star chart of the heavens, that can be found at the local library will help.
There are so many more things to think about as you make your way down that busy street, beside the cracks in the sidewalk. So sometime this month, before you hit the streets and get too caught up within the days activities. Go outside and plant a tree in honor of earth day and mother earth. But more importantly-Lift your head up and behold all the beauty that the night sky has to offer to everyone.