Skywatch Line for Wednesday, April 11th, and Thursday, April 12th, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, April 11th, and Thursday, April 12th, written by Louis Suarato.

The 18% illuminated, waning crescent Moon sets at 2:57 p.m. Wednesday. The Moon rises again, 13% illuminated at 4:57 Thursday morning. Mercury follows the Moon, rising 43 minutes later, 20 degrees from the Sun. With a diameter of 3,032 miles, Mercury is smaller than the two largest moons in the solar system. Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, has a diameter of 3,274 miles, and Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is 3,201 miles wide. Jupiter’s moon, Callisto has a diameter that is only 37 miles smaller than Mercury, and Io is 68 miles smaller. Venus is low in the west after sunset, 22 degrees elongated from the Sun.

Jupiter rises at 9:58 p.m. in the constellation Libra. Two hours after Jupiter rises, the Great Red Spot begins its transit across the face of the planet. This cyclonic storm has been raging on Jupiter for at least 350 years. With winds estimated at 400 miles per hour, the Great Red Spot is two to three times the size of Earth. Only the winds of Uranus, at 560 miles per hour, and those of Neptune, at 1,500 miles per hour, are stronger. Saturn and Mars rise overnight in Sagittarius, now separated by 4 degrees. Earth continues to close on Mars this month, coming to within 79 million miles on April 30th, with the red planet increasing in magnitude to -0.4.

Thursday is the 50th anniversary of the fall of the Schenectady meteorite. On April 12, 1968, at around 8:30 p.m., a meteorite hit a house in Glenville, NY. The 383.3 gram (approximately 10 ounces) meteorite was discovered on April 14th when the owner, Joseph Kowalski noticed the damage to his roof. Kowalski donated the meteorite to the Schenectady Museum, now known as miSci. According to the U.S. Meteorological Society, two other meteorites have been found in, or near, the Capital Region. A .5 ounce meteorite was found in Bethlehem in 1859, and in 1863, a 3.3 pound meteorite was found in Rensselaer County’s Tomhannock Creek.

The Schenectady meteorite will be on display April 21st at miSci for National Astronomy Day.

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