Celestial events in the skies for the week of April 4 – 10, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
The Moon is on its way this week to full phase next Tuesday, and that sets the stage for the date of the Christian celebration of Easter Sunday. That holy holiday fluctuates because of a formula adopted in the 16th Century: Easter is the first Sunday after the first Full Moon that occurs after the first day of Spring! That sets up the April 16 Easter Sunday—on of the latest dates it can occur.
Tuesday, April 4
On this 1930 date in space history the American Interplanetary Society was formed by three science fiction writers. Four years later, renamed the American Rocket Society, it was pioneering liquid fueled rocket tests, and gaining popularity among those followers of rocket pioneer Robert Goddard. By 1959, there were 21,000 members, all eager to see mankind reach for the stars.
Wednesday, April 5
On this 1991 date in space history, Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched with one of NASA’s great space observatories, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. The 18-ton satellite with four telescopes made important discoveries for nine years before being de-orbited in June 2000.
Thursday, April 6
On this 1965 date in space history, the first communications satellite was launched. Intelsat 1 was nicknamed “Early Bird,” and sent the first live images between America and England from its geosynchronous orbit, 22,500 miles high. Today there are about 713 communications satellites orbiting Earth, giving everyone who subscribes their fill of 24-hours of radio and television programming including news, sports, movies, and everybody’s favorite—infomercials!
Friday, April 7
Have late night plans this weekend? Look up to the sky after 10 pm and your eyes will certainly be drawn to the brightest “star” in the sky—the planet Jupiter! The King of our Solar System, it is easily the brightest thing in the sky besides the Sun, Moon and Venus.
Saturday, April 8
Remember Venus in the evening sky all Winter—well, where has it gone? To the morning sky! And early birds will see the planet rising around 6:30 am EDT and hugging the eastern horizon in the morning twilight.
Sunday, April 9
Darkness keeps getting later and later, and that’s a joy for gardeners, sports buffs and park lovers. But it’s just longer to wait for the stars to come out! It doesn’t get dark until after 8:30 pm DST, great to tee-up an after-work round of golf—while stargazers wait for the stars to shine.
Monday, April 10
Looking north and you’ll see the most recognized star pattern of all—the Big Dipper. These seven stars are actually the hindquarters of a much bigger constellation, Ursa Major the Big Bear. Looking this direction is to look away and outside our Galaxy into the depths of our Universe and untold millions of other galaxies. The handle of the Big Dipper will “arc” you to the bright, orange star, Arcturus in Bootes. Continue that curve and you’ll run by Virgo’s brightest star Spica, with planet Jupiter above.