What's Up - April 2017
What's Up for April? Jupiter, king of the planets is visible all night long, and the Lyrid meteor shower puts on a good show.
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
On April 7th Jupiter reaches opposition, when it shines brightest and appears largest. The solar system is lined up so that Jupiter, Earth and the sun form a straight line with Earth in the middle. It will appear highest overhead at midnight.
Through binoculars, you should be able to see Jupiter's four Galilean moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Through a telescope, Jupiter's cloud belts and zones are easily visible, and the Great Red Spot can be seen beginning its transit--or crossing-of the disk every 10 hours.
The Summer Triangle is made of the three bright stars Deneb in Cygnus (the Swan), Altair in Aquila (the Eagle), and Vega in Lyra (the Lyre, or harp). Find Vega and Lyra high in the eastern sky a few hours after midnight this month.
This year's second major meteor shower -- the Lyrids - will radiate through the Summer Triangle. It peaks this month in the morning hours of April 22nd. Patient observers will be rewarded with the sight of 18 meteors per hour before dawn from a dark sky location. Since the moon will be nearly to its new-moon phase, expect excellent moon-less viewing conditions this year. The actual new moon is on April 26.
You can catch up on solar system missions to Jupiter (like Juno) and all of NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov
That's all for this month, I'm Jane Houston Jones.