APRIL NIGHT SKIES OVER TANZANIA

APRIL NIGHT SKIES OVER TANZANIA



The first eclipse for 2013 will happen right over our skies on the night of Thursday 25th April 2013. It will pose an exciting challenge to watch because the whole Moon will be fit snugly inside the Earth’s penumbra. Clear skies allowing, we should be able to see a distinct reduction from the dazzling brightness of the Full Moon. The eclipse will last from 9:03 pm to 1:12 am past midnight. During mid-eclipse, from 10:54 pm to 11:21 pm a small edge of the Moon will enter the dark shadow of Earth. During this half hour we should be able to notice the northern edge slightly chipped.

This weekend, from 21 to 22 April, peaking on 22nd, the Lyrid Meteor shower will spray around 10 to 20 shooting stars per hour (around one every five minutes or so). If the skies are clear, watch the northern sky, from midnight onwards, in the sky around the bright star Vega, which rises in the north east horizon just after midnight. By dawn, with Vega reaching maximum height, the meteor shower will become stronger as particles from space strike the Earth’s atmosphere head on.

Scientists have released news that the asteroid that was to hit Mars on October 19, 2014 is no longer on collision course with the red planet It is now estimated that it will pass about 100,000 kilometres from Mars with an extremely reduced chance of 1 in 100,000 for a probability of impact due to errors in measurement. Mars looks safe from a catastrophe from the kilometre size asteroid.

The rains open up once in a while to reveal cool, clear, crisp skies that are perfect for seeing even with light pollution in city skies. Jupiter is now nearing the western horizon alerting us about a month left before it leaves our evening skies until its next appearance in the evening skies in November. The bright planet makes a distinct pair with the red giant star Aldebaran close to the distinct rectangle made by the four stars of the Orion constellation to the left of the Aldebaran-Jupiter pair.

Saturn is rising in the east rising while the sun is setting in the west, so it is visible throughout the night. It is well away from other bright stars, so though it is not very bright, its sharp steady light can be distinguished from any twinkling stars nearby. The full Moon on April 25 with a light lunar eclipse will have Saturn close to it, making a memorable pair.

Mercury is another planet visible at the moment, at an altitude of about 10 degrees above the horizon, just before sunrise. The rest of the naked eye planets (Mars and Venus) are hidden in the Sun’s glare, with Venus waiting to begin its evening appearance in June.

The prominent constellations of Orion, Taurus, Gemini and Sirius which we have been following since the beginning of the year are now crowded in the western sky. In an urban area, due to light pollution, the Milky Way can be made out as the path along which these constellations lie. It stretches from northwest to southeast and you will see far more stars along this band than in the rest of the sky.

The constellation that climbs high in the eastern skies is Leo (the Lion). At one end it has stars forming a distinctive curve in the shape of a backward question mark. This makes the head of the lion. The bright star Regulus at the bottom of Leo’s head is a triple star, two of which can be easily separated even through a pair of binoculars.

The direction pointers, the Southern Cross and the Big Dipper (shaped like an inverted sauce pan) are up in the sky and are visible throughout the night. The long diagonal of the Southern Cross points towards the south while the edge of the pan in the Big Dipper points north.




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