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Written in the Stars: April astronomy calendar

graphic illustration of a monthly calendar for the column "written in the stars"
(Graphic illustration by Charlie Dillon | The Collegian)

Stargazing can be a new hobby to explore this spring as the evenings begin to warm up. 

Colorado State University’s Emily Hardegree-Ullman, assistant professor in the Colorado State University physics department and director of the on-campus Madison-Macdonald Observatory, offers some insight to this month’s celestial calendar.

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Check out last month’s Written in the Stars for Fort Collins-specific beginner stargazing suggestions and to review some of the springtime constellations that are still visible. 

Conjunctions

According to in-the-sky.org, the moon will align with three different planets on the evenings of April 6, 7 and 17. The planets will be visible to the naked eye and in line with the moon. This month, Saturn will align with the moon on April 6, Jupiter on April 7 and Mars on April 17. 

April 21-22, Lyrid meteor shower

Following the “meteor drought” occurring from January to April, the Lyrid meteor shower will be best visible from the Northern Hemisphere on the nights of April 21 and 22 and into the morning of April 23, Hardegree-Ullman said.

“They are going to be a little bit tricky (to see) because the moon will be pretty bright,” Hardegree-Ullman said. She said the best time to spot them will be “after the moon sets, in the wee hours after 4:30 in the morning.” Hardegree-Ullman said the Lyrids would be most visible in the early mornings of April 22 and 23. 

“The Lyrids are going to be appearing to come from the direction of (the constellation) Lyra,” Hardegree-Ullman said. She said stargazers can look toward the bright star, Vega, part of the constellation Lyra, in the east to try and spot the meteor shower. 

April 27, super pink moon

This month’s full moon will appear up to 10% bigger than its smallest state, making it a supermoon, according to Hardegree-Ullman. April’s full moon is always called the pink moon, named for some of the earliest flowers to bloom in spring. Hardegree-Ullman said the supermoon’s size may not be especially apparent, but it will be noticeably brighter than usual. 

Satellites

Students use this website to track International Space Station passes over a variety of locations. Hardegree-Ullman said that in Fort Collins, “On April 2, 4 and 5, the ISS will be visible for multiple minutes and will be very bright.”  

Constellations

According to Hardegree-Ullman, stargazers can look for the red giant Arcturus in the constellation Boötes.

“Arc to Arcturus; so if you find the Big Dipper handle, and follow it to a bright red star, you’ve found it,” she said. 

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Hardegree-Ullman also said to look for the constellation Gemini and its colorful stars, Castor and Pollux. Cancer, a faint constellation, will also be visible, and its Beehive Cluster can be viewed with either binoculars or a telescope, according to Hardegree-Ullman. 

Happy stargazing, Rams!

Noelle Mason can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @noellemaso.

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