By Duncan Lunan
The Moon will be New on April 5th and Full on April 19th. On the evening of April 13th the Moon passes through the cluster Praesepe, in Cancer, ending at 11 p.m. (BST) well before moonset.
On the spring equinox, March 20th, Glasgow City Council held a media event to unveil the updated recreation of the Sighthill stone circle, the first astronomical one in the UK for over 3000 years, which I designed and built in 1978-79. The Equinox was the 40th anniversary of its completion by Royal Naval helicopter, but the hill on which it stood has now been removed to make way for new housing development. After a petition which drew over 6500 signatures, the stones were removed intact in April 2016, a new platform was created for them further east, and following observations last year I was able to calculate the alignments to mark the solstices, equinoxes and key lunar events at the new site, which we shall be watching over coming years to compare their accuracy with the previous site’s.
The planet Mercury is in the morning sky, in Aquarius, rising after 5 a.m. and best seen soon after greatest western elongation from the Sun on April 11th but dropping down towards the horizon, to the lower left of Venus. Mercury is near the Moon on the 3rd and at its closest to Venus on the 16th and 17th.
Venus is now very low in the morning sky but still bright, rising at 5.00 a.m. and visible for about half an hour. Venus is near the waning Moon on the 2nd.
Mars moves through Taurus, starting the month near the Pleiades and passing Aldebaran in the Hyades cluster mid-month, setting around midnight. The Moon is near all three on the 9th.
Jupiter, in the morning sky in Ophiucus, now rises at 1.00 a.m., comes to its stationary point on April 10th and begins to move retrograde (east to west). Jupiter is near the Moon on the 23rd and 24th.
Saturn in Sagittarius rises about 3 a.m., near the Moon on the 25th, and reaching its stationary point on the 30th.
Uranus and Neptune are not visible in April, with Uranus in conjunction with the Sun on April 22nd.
The Lyrid meteor shower of debris from Comet Thatcher (no relation) peaks on the night of 22nd/23rd April, and will be best seen around 1 a.m. although spoiled by moonlight.
The next meeting of the Astronomers of the Future Club will be on Thursday April 25th, from 19:15 to 21:00 hrs at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, KA10 6AG. The speaker will be science communicator Laura Thomas on “The Moon: our next step in the journey to Mars”, which she was unable to give to the AOTF Club last summer for reasons beyond our control.
“Starfield, science fiction by Scottish writers”, edited by Duncan Lunan, is available from the publishers at https://www.shorelineofinfinity.com/product/starfield. Duncan’s recent books “Children from the Sky”, “The Stones and the Stars”, “Incoming Asteroid!” and “The Elements of Time” are available from the publishers, on Amazon or through booksellers; details are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.