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Articles by J. Alex Knoll

Every night is Astronomy Day

Join the party Saturday, April 28, as people around the globe take aim at the heavens for Astronomy Day. This annual event was begun in 1973 by California astronomer Doug Berger, who organized a drive to set up telescopes along city sidewalks and other public spaces so that ordinary people could better appreciate the night sky....

The Parole Rotary is preparing the finishing touches to this year’s second annual ­Naptown barBAYq Contest and Music Festival.
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The new moon bodes well for this year’s Lyrid meteor shower

The new moon in the nether hours between Friday and Saturday leaves this weekend’s night skies clear for the annual Lyrid meteor shower, which peaks Saturday-Sunday.
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How many stars can you spot with the lion’s perch?

This next week marks the last of this year’s Globe At Night citizen-science sessions, where ordinary folks like you and me lend an eye observing the night sky. This month’s target is the constellation Leo. Armed with a star chart downloaded from the group’s website, backyard astronomers count how many stars they can spot. You can submit results — from one or more locations — thru the 20th.
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While its glow overwhelms some objects, it points to others

Friday’s full moon is commonly called the Grass Moon and the Egg Moon. As the first full moon following vernal equinox, this is also the Paschal Moon, used to pinpoint the dates of Passover and Easter.
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Odds are good, yours is, tooOdds are good, yours is, too

If the kids left the door ajar with the air-conditioning running, you’d close it. If the windows were open and it grew too chilly, you’d shut them. If a tree crashed through your roof, you’d get it fixed.
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Perched above the equator, the sun splits the day between light and dark

As darkness settles, Venus and Jupiter blaze in the west, and with the moon absent there is no brighter objects visible. After drawing together for weeks, Venus has pulled ahead. At week’s end they are four degrees apart, and the distance grows by about a half-degree each night. Both planets are climbing higher into view, heading from Aries toward Taurus and the Pleiades star cluster.
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Venus and Jupiter are at their best, and the moon isn’t too shabby, either

As the sun dips toward the horizon, Venus and Jupiter appear high in the west. Venus, the brighter of the two, shines roughly five degrees below Jupiter at week’s end, but that gap is closing fast. They reach their nearest on Tuesday, shining side by side a mere three degrees apart. Visible for almost four hours after sunset, this is the best conjunction of Venus and Jupiter for years to come....

Our sister planets are at peak display this week

This is a week for watching the planets. Mercury is emerging from the glow of twilight in its best appearance of the year. Higher above, Venus and Jupiter are drawing together on their way to an incredible conjunction. Mars reaches opposition and is at its largest and brightest for the year. Saturn’s there, too, a golden sentinel visible from 10pm until dawn.
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How many planets can you spot?

The waxing crescent moon and Mercury appear low in the west-southwest after sunset Thursday. While the moon is easy to spot, Mercury is 10 degrees lower, buried amid twilight’s glow. Your chance to catch the innermost planet hinges between its own setting, around 6:45, and the sun’s glare, which doesn’t give way to full darkness until 7pm. Scanning the horizon with a pair of binoculars will help....