Several reasons to look up at the night sky this week

Several reasons to look up at the night sky this week
ISS on April 5, 2020 from Hamilton, Ala. (Source: Jimmy Holland)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - As we continue to practice safe-social distancing, we know many folks are at home this week. So we wanted to pass along a list of night sky events for backyard skywatching!

SEE IF YOU CAN SPOT THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION: Sunday night, we were treated to an incredible fly-over by the International Space Station. There were few clouds in the sky, temperatures were pleasant, and a nearly full moon made for perfect fly-over viewing. But if you missed it, there will be a five minute viewing window Monday night at 7:31 PM looking north-northwest. However, our forecast calls for increasing clouds Monday night, so hopefully we will catch enough breaks to spot the station. Also, the station will be lower on the horizon at 27º and will be disappearing over the eastern horizon. There will be another small viewing window Monday night at 9:09 PM, for about a minute, looking to the west. The station will reach a max height of 21º and disappear to the west-southwest.

OTHER SPACE STATION STATION FLY-OVERS THIS WEEK

  • Tuesday, April 7th at 8:22 PM: Viewing Window (3 Minutes) Looking West, disappearing to the South-Southeast, Max Height 40º
  • Wednesday, April 8th at 7:35 PM: Viewing Window (4 Minutes) Looking Northwest, disappearing to the Southeast, Max Height 82º
  • Thursday, April 9th at 8:25 PM: Viewing Window (2 Minutes) Looking West-Southwest, disappearing to the Southwest, Max Height 11º
  • Friday, April 10th at 7:38 PM: Viewing Window (3 Minutes) Looking West-Southwest, disappearing to the South, Max Height 20º

You can also find the exact fly-over times for your location by clicking here.

VIEW THE PINK SUPER MOON OF APRIL: This week, we will have the first full moon of the spring season and it will also be a super moon. The moon will rise to the east at 6:57 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7, and reach peak illumination around 9:35 p.m.

The name ‘pink moon’ doesn’t mean the moon will necessarily be pink or a different color. It’s a nickname that was given to the April full moon for the pinkish flowers associated with blooms associated with a pink moss called Phlox. These are often among the earliest blooms to occur in the eastern United States in the spring season.

The moon will be a super moon due to its position in orbit, which will be at perigee. The moon’s orbit around the earth is elliptical so there are times throughout the year in which it is farthest from earth (apogee) and closest (perigee). This will actually be its closest encounter with the earth this year, so in these situations, the moon is around 14% larger or 30% brighter than apogee. There will be clouds, and even some rain in the forecast for Tuesday, but if we do have cloud breaks it will be easy to find.

SPOT THE PLANET VENUS: The frequent question we’ve received from skywatchers is what is the bright star to the west in the evening sky. That isn’t a star but actually the planet Venus. Be on the lookout for Venus each evening this week after sunset in the western sky. Venus ranks as the third brightest object to light-up the sky behind the moon and the sun. If you have a good telescope or binoculars, you can try to spot the Pleiades star cluster to the right of Venus. The Pleiades are one of the star clusters that are closest to earth, and are located in the constellation of Taurus. This open star cluster is made up of about 800 stars and is located over 400 light years from earth.

You can learn more about our closest planetary neighbor Venus by clicking here.

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