Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, April 13th and Thursday, April 14th, 2016

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, April 13th and Thursday, April 14th written by Louis Suarato.

The 44% illuminated, waxing gibbous Moon rises at 11:33 a.m. Wednesday. The Moon will reach its First Quarter phase at midnight, and will set at 2:45 a.m. Thursday. The First and Third Quarter Moons occur when the Moon is at a 90 degree angle tothe Sun and Earth. From our perspective, we see half the Moon illuminated, and half in shadow. The First Quarter Moon always rises around noon, and sets around midnight. In the northern hemisphere, the First Quarter Moon’s right half will appear illuminated. This phase is one of the best to observe because the angle of the Sun creates long shadows from lunar features, such as craters, maria and mountains. Look along the terminator for the best views of these features.

After sunset, look for Mercury approximately 12 degrees above the south-southwestern horizon. Jupiter can be found about 42 degrees over the southeastern horizon alongside the constellation Leo. At 9 p.m., Wednesday, the Moon will be flanked by Canis Minor’s brightest star, Procyon, to its lower left, and Gemini’s brightest star, Pollux, to its upper right. On Thursday, about the same time, the Moon will be below the Beehive Cluster, also known as M44. The Beehive Cluster is about 580 light years away, and is a fine binocular target. When the Moon is not in the area as a guide, you can locate M44 just below an imaginary line about halfway between Leo’s brightest star, Regulus, and Pollux.

The pre-dawn sky features Saturn and Mars side by side, separated by 8 degrees over the southern horizon. Scorpius’ brightest star, Antares, forms a triangle with the two planets. Saturn’s rings are now tilted at a 26 degree angle toward Earth.

There are bright International Space Station passes over our region Wednesday and Thursday nights. Wednesday, look to the west-northwestern horizon at 9:35 p.m. to view the ISS rise past Auriga’s brightest star, Capella, and disappear into Earth’s shadow above the head of Gemini. Thursday night, a brighter, and longer, ISS pass will begin at 8:40 p.m. out of the west-northwest, and will climb through the Big Dipper, before fading below Bootes brightest star, Arcturus.

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