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Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower returns

The moon wanes through morning skies this week, reaching last quarter Thursday, May 2, when it shines between the faint constellations Capricornus and Aquarius and is high in the south by dawn.

Can you notice the Seeliger Effect?

Thursday marks April’s full moon, also called the Pink Moon for the early blooming phlox, the Grass Moon for the return of verdant lawns and the Fish Moon, hereabouts commemorating the opening of rockfish season. That evening, the moon rises in the east as the sun sets in the west. In parts of Africa, the Middle East, Australia and Asia, Earth’s shadow will partially eclipse the moon. The rest of us will have to be content with the golden glow of Saturn above the moon and to its left that night.

The waxing moon makes predawn skies your best bet for this annual meteor shower

The moon is at first-quarter phase Thursday the 18th. Even with only half its face illuminated, the moon washes out the stars of amid the constellation Cancer the crab, in which it rests that night. But if you look beyond the moon, you will see that it is juxtaposed between a triangle of three more or less equally bright stars: Procyon to the west, Regulus to the east and Pollux to the north.

Luna pairs with Jupiter and glows with Earth’s light

A nascent crescent moon emerges from the lingering glow of sunset at week’s end and then appears roughly 10 degrees higher and remains visible a half-hour longer night by night. Saturday evening, the moon forms a near perfect triangle with blazing Jupiter to the east and orange Aldebaran to the south, each less than 10 degrees from the other.

Help Globe at Night shine a spotlight on light pollution

With the moon waning through early morning skies, this weekend is a great opportunity to participate in the latest round of the Globe at Night program, which goes on through Tuesday, April 9. Relying on the observations of volunteers from all around the world, Globe at Night is gathering the most comprehensive data on light pollution.

You can still catch this comet
 

Comet PanSTARRS is still with us for 30 to 45 minutes immediately following sunset. Look for it due west 20 degrees below the crescent moon Thursday, March 14. Shining around second magnitude, PanSTARRS at first appears as a modest star. Binoculars — and with ideal viewing conditions, even the unaided eye — will reveal a wispy tail pointing almost straight up. It appears a little higher above the horizon as it nears its peak on the 24th, edging to the northwest, or right, night by night.

Scan the west after sunset

After last month’s near-passing asteroid and the exploding meteorite over Siberia, we have another interloper passing through: Comet Pan-STARRS. Given clear skies and an unobstructed view of the west horizon at dusk, you can spot this comet over the coming week.

Across time and cultures, the night skies tell the story of the seasons

The waning gibbous moon rises in the late evening at week’s end, and by the time of last-quarter Tuesday it doesn’t rise until almost 2am. Thursday the 28th, the moon appears within a fraction of a degree from blue-white Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo. Spica’s return to evening skies is a sign that spring isn’t far behind. In Greek lore, Virgo is the goddess of fertility, grieving half the year for her daughter’s return from the underworld.

The sap’s flowing, so you can get sowing

The gibbous moon waxes to full phase Monday, February 25. Early evening Thursday the 21st, the moon is between Castor and Pollux of Gemini to the north and yellow-hued Procyon in Canis Minor to the south. The Little Dog Procyon is the eighth-brightest star, with the brightest star Sirius, the Big Dog, trailing 20 degrees to the southwest.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 whizzes by

If you feel a slight breeze around 1:30pm Friday, February 15, it could be the passing of Asteroid 2012 DA14. This 150-foot wide hunk of space rock is small as far as asteroids are concerned, but its closeness to Earth is unusual. Coming within 17,200 miles of Earth, this will be the closest recorded interstellar object to our planet and well within the moon’s orbit around Earth. While there is no chance of this asteroid striking the planet, it could crash into communications satellites.