Celestial events in the skies for the week of Apr. 17-23, 2018 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
Astronomy Day on Saturday puts the focus on the hobby that begs you to look up. Started in 1973, the celebration of stargazing if filled with family fun activities at science centers around America. Always around the First Quarter Moon, our celestial neighbor is a great place to begin a lifetime of looking up and becoming familiar with our night sky.
Tuesday, April 17
On this 1970 date in space history, America’s Apollo 13 aborted moon mission safely landed in the Pacific Ocean after a near-fatal four-day emergency ordeal. The rescue mission of the three astronauts is aptly portrayed in the Hollywood movie “Apollo 13.” The world watched closely as an exploded oxygen tank on the way to the Moon put the crew in mortal danger and tested NASA space engineers with their biggest challenge ever.
Wednesday, April 18
Orion starts to nod toward the western horizon as it sets around 10:30 pm, taking with it the bright star patterns of Winter, including Taurus, Canis Major and Gemini.
Thursday, April 19
That bright star near the crescent Moon is the eye of Taurus the Bull, the star Aldebaran. On this 1971 date in space history, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first space station, called Salyut 1. It was occupied for 28 days by the three-man crew of Soyuz 11. But an air leak in the cabin during reentry killed the cosmonauts, quietly suffocating them as their spaceship landed safely.
Friday, April 20
On this 1972 date in space history, Apollo 16 safely landed on the Moon in a mountainous area called Descartes. John Young, deceased, and Charlie Duke, 84, camped out for three days on the lunar surface, driving their Lunar Rover 17 miles during three, 7-hour exploration trips outside the safety of their moon ship.
Saturday, April 21
National Astronomy Day! Check out local planetariums and science centers wherever you are for some day and night events to take astronomy to the people.
Sunday, April 22
NFirst Quarter Moon is tonight in Cancer between Gemini and Leo. Springtime is Big Dipper time—just look to the north to see this all-time favorite star pattern. Its two outside bowl stars are the “pointers” that guide a person to the North Star, Polaris. Follow the handle curve to bright star Arcturus and continue the arc to blue-white Spica and red planet Mars above.
Monday, April 23
In the north, the Big Dipper is visible in all its glory, its three-star handle arching to bright star Arcturus, speeding on to bright white star Spica with red Mars above in the ancient a huge constellation Virgo the Virgin.