Celestial events in the skies for the week of Apr. 24-30, 2018 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
Though the Moon is waxing to full phase this weekend, it is still a great time to look at the bright star of prominent constellations like Leo the Lion high overhead, the Big Dipper in the north and kite-shaped Arcturus high in the east. After sunset, Venus blazes into the early darkness and will be part of our Summer evenings. Late-nighters after 3 am will see Jupiter on one side of the Milky Way and Saturn and Mars on the other side our Galaxy arm.
Tuesday, April 24
On this 1970 date in space history, China became the fifth space-faring nation by launching their first satellite. Today, China has an escalated manned space program that has already orbited nine men and two women, occupied two small space stations and have announced plans for a permanent space station anchoring trips to the Moon.
Wednesday, April 25
Happy 28th birthday Hubble Space Telescope! It was on this date in 1990 when Space Shuttle Discovery deployed the telescope with a 96-inch mirror into orbit 450 miles above the Earth. Five service missions by Shuttles have lengthened the life of the amazing Hubble. One of the most important scientific instruments built by man, Hubble has just a few years left before being plunged in the atmosphere to a fiery destruction.
Thursday, April 26
On this 1993 date in space history, Space Shuttle Columbia was launched on the STS-55 Spacelab mission that kept seven astronauts busy for 10 days in cargo bay laboratory. The brightest star in the sky, Sirius, is skirting the southwest horizon, making its swan song.
Friday, April 27
The pre-dawn sky if filled with planets straddling the Milky Way. Looking south after 4 am until sunrise you will see from right to left: Jupiter, the red star Antares in Scorpius, the Milky Way, Saturn and Mars. These three planets will be in prime location in the late Summer and Fall, so you have plenty of time to see them in a telescope.
Saturday, April 28
Full Moon is Sunday night, but you’ll think it’s tonight the way everyone will be acting. In 1991, STS-39 Discovery was launched on a Department of Defense mission with seven astronauts deploying several satellites for national security.
Sunday, April 29
Full Moon is at 8:58 pm, and it has a lot of names this late in Spring including Flower Moon, Green Grass, Duck Egg and Return-of-Birds Moon! It won’t be a “Super Moon” because it is not at the closet point to Earth in its orbit, but it will be beautiful and a welcome site on a Spring evening.
Monday, April 30
That bright “star” near the Moon tonight is the planet Jupiter. The Big Dipper is just a part of the much larger constellation Ursa Major, the Big Bear. But these seven stars, that are called The Plough in Europe, are among the most recognized asterism in the night sky. Of course, “the pointer stars” of the outside bowl, Merak and Dubhe, guide us to the North Star, Polaris, in the Little Dipper, again, just a part of the Little Bear.