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Saturday 28 March 2015  •   8 Willow Moon 2015

Viewing the night sky in Willow Moon 2015

21 March - 18 April 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 4 April, 13:06 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Willow Moon 2015

Venus is brightening in the evening sky, while Mars slips from view into the sunset. On 11 April, Venus is 2.5° south of the Pleiades. Jupiter shines very brightly in the evening and night sky, setting a couple of hours before dawn. The moon is nearby on 30 March. On 12 April, the Earth passes through the plane of the orbit of Jupiter’s main moons, and so their movement appears to be entirely side to side. Watch Io and its shadow cross Jupiter from 18:52 to 22:18 on 13 April, and Ganymede do the same the following evening, though its shadow doesn’t cross the planet until the moon itself has passed. Saturn rises at midnight or soon before, and is still north of the main stars of Scorpius, brighter than its bright red star, Antares. On 23 March, it passes half a degree north of Nu Scorpii, a set of maybe seven stars orbiting around each other over 430 light years away. See how many you can see through a telescope, and then move the field of view north to look at Saturn to see, if you can, its cloud systems, its rings and some of its many moons. Earth’s moon is near Saturn in the sky as we see it on 7 and 8 April. At full moon on 4 April, there is a short-lived total eclipse of the moon, visible from Australia and New Zealand, the Pacific, the west coast of North America and the east coast of Asia. Totality lasts from just 11:57 to 12:02 UTC/GMT, locally 22:57 to 23:02 in south-eastern Australia and 04:57 to 05:02 in California, both on 4 April. The partial eclipse is from 10:15 to 13:44 UTC. On 21 March, the very new moon occults Uranus over central Africa and the Middle East during daylight hours. It then goes on to occult Mars over the far south Pacific Ocean.

The month ahead: Hawthorn Moon 2015

19 April - 17 May 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 4 May, 04:42 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Hawthorn Moon 2015

Venus brightens more in the evening sky. The moon passes south of it on 21 April. On 7 May Mercury reaches 21°E of the sun in the evening sky. A terrible view from southern parts of the Earth, but from the north it is quite a good chance to see the elusive inner planet. Look to the WNW soon after sunset. The lovely bright Venus will be the first to appear. As the sky darkens, look for Mercury between Venus and the sunset. You may also begin to see the bright stars of Taurus and Orion south of Venus. Further round, away from the sunset, is the bright Jupiter, between the recognisable stars of Leo and Gemini. It sets soon after midnight. The two bright planets are a lovely sight in the evening sky. Watch for them coming closer over the next couple of months. Saturn is brightening as it approaches opposition early next month, its rings and moons a delight through a telescope. It rises during the evening to the north of Scorpius’ front stars, and significantly brighter than the nearby red star Antares. On 15 May, the old moon occults Uranus in daylight over central South America and Africa. Look out for the Lyrid meteors on 21/22 April, a good display with the moon out of the way, and the Eta Aquarid meteors on 5/6 May, though the just past full moon that will drown out many of the latter.

William Morris
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