Skywatch Line for Friday, April 14, through Sunday, April 16, 2017

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, April 14, through Sunday, April 16, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 6:15am and sets at 7:37pm; the Waning Gibbous Moon sets at 8:24am and rises at 10:56pm, reaching transit altitude of 32 degrees south at 3:14am.

On Friday, mid-to-late evening, catch the Moon rising above the eastern horizon. Stay later to watch Saturn follow the Moon into the sky by very late evening, or after midnight. Look for the Moon, the star Antares and Saturn in the predawn and dawn sky for the next several mornings. Best view of the Moon and Saturn is in the predawn sky on Saturday night as the Moon and Saturn move highest in the sky near dawn time. Observe Saturn just before the onset of morning twilight, around 5:30 am, when it’s highest. Saturn will lie less than 25 degrees above the southern horizon. With the ring system currently tilted open, almost the maximum amount, it’s easier to spot the famous Cassini Division, the gap that separates Saturn’s two brightest rings.

Jupiter is seen in the western sky during the predawn hours, while Venus lurks low in the east as darkness begins to give way to dawn. Jupiter, at magnitude –2.5, is now past opposition, therefore, it’s up slightly before sunset and viewable all night long. It is the first bright object to pop out into the eastern sky at dusk. Inspect Jupiter with a telescope when it’s up in the sky after midnight.

Let the blue-white star Spica guide you to the Omega Centauri star cluster. This year, Spica will be easy to find because planet Jupiter is quite close to this star. Omega Centauri star cluster climbs highest up for the night with Spica. The cluster can be seen with the unaided eye, if sky is dark enough and if you’re far enough to the south. Omega Centauri is the largest and finest globular star cluster visible to the eye alone. Very few of the Milky Way galaxy’s globular star clusters are readily visible without optics. Omega Centauri looks like a fairly faint fuzzy star. Globular clusters are large, symmetrically shaped groupings of stars, fairly evenly distributed around the core of our Milky Way galaxy. Omega Centauri is best seen through a telescope. It will be seen as a globe-shaped stellar city with millions of stars.

Friday marks the birthdate of Christiaan Huygens. Born on April 14 1629, the Dutch physicist and astronomer founded the wave theory of light and discovered the true shape of the rings of Saturn. Using a lens he ground for himself, he discovered the first moon of Saturn, later named Titan. Huygens also studied and drew the first maps of Mars. On January 14 2005, a NASA space probe, named after Huygens, landed on Titan.

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