April has been designated as Global Astronomy Month by Astronomers Without Borders, a US-based organization that brings together people who love watching the night sky.
April is a significant month for space related events. Here are some key events that sky watchers should note:
- Full Pink Moon April 5th and 6th
- Comet 34P/PANSTARRS flyby on April 7
- April 20 Total Solar Eclipse
- Lyrid Meteor Shower April 21, 22, 23
April 5 and 6 – Full Pink Moon
On April 6, at 12:37 am EDT, the Northern Hemisphere’s first full moon will be at its brightest. The full pink moon will be visible for the first time on April 5, however, due to its peak brightness earlier in the day, western time zones will witness its peak on the eve of April 5.
April 7 – 34P/PANSTARRS at closest point of comet flyby
In early April, Jupiter-family comet 364P/PANSTARRS will fly by Earth at a distance of 11 million miles. The comet will be in the “Foxy” constellation Vulpecula and is estimated to have a magnitude of about 12.3. Both the northern and southern hemispheres will be able to see it, but people in northern latitudes will be able to see it more clearly.
April 20 – Total solar eclipse
Although eclipses are usually exciting events, this one has a unique feature. A total solar eclipse results from a highly unusual cosmic alignment of the Earth, Moon, and Sun. The following solar eclipse will be the last until 2031 and the first since 2013.
On April 20, a new moon will partially block the sun’s light. The Moon will fail to produce a total solar eclipse for a short period of time because it is too far from Earth in its elliptical orbit to completely cover the Sun. Over the Indian Ocean, a brief ring of fire will be visible, but the moon’s shadow will completely obscure the sun.
April 21, 22, and 23 – Lyrid meteor shower
It is estimated that the lyrids will begin late on April 21 or 22 and last until the early hours of April 23. A peak is expected on April 23, 9:06 EDT Despite the narrowness of the peak of the Lyrids, the new moon on April 19 will not prevent observers from viewing the night sky.