What's coming up in the night sky in the week of 11 to 17 April 2022.



Chris Bramley Hello and welcome to Star Diary, the podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night magazine. You can subscribe to the print edition of the magazine by visiting www.skyatnightmagazine.com or to a digital edition by visiting iTunes or Google Play.

Ezzy Pearson Greetings, listeners, and welcome to Star Diary, Radio Astronomy's weekly the guide to the best things to see in the night sky in the week of the 11th to the 17th of April. I'm Ezzy Pearson and I'm joined on the podcast today by our reviews editor, Paul Money. So Paul, what's looking good in the week of the 11th of April?

Paul Money Well, Ezzy for once we're going to have something a bit fainter. We're not going to go for bright planets. We will be in the evening sky. Hurrah! Nice and convenient for everybody.

Ezzy Pearson There's going to be some morning people listening to this.

Paul Money I know, I know. But you know, we will satisfy their urge is a bit later on as well. There is something for them as well, though, you know, but it's one of those things that we.... We tend to concentrate on the bright planets and say the Moon and we will come to those. But it's nice to have some objects and things that are a bit fainter that gives us a bit more of a challenge, you know, because we should have a challenge every now and then, shouldn't we? So on April the 11th, you'll need binoculars. I would use 10x50s for this, for at least two of the targets I'm going to mention because what we're looking for is the dwarf planet Ceres. Now we concentrate and planets at the moment, But this is a dwarf planet, but at least it's reasonably bright sort of things. So, you know, unlike sort of thing, the cluster. So I think it's a dot. There is a cluster next to it, Ceres each passing, the star cluster NGC 1746. Now this is in Taurus, and if you actually take the Northern Whorle, go from the top half of the Hyades and carry on towards Alnath, the star that appears to look as if it's part of Auriga and as you go up, you actually come across a cluster. In fact, the several clusters here, there's not just the Pleiades and Hyades in Taurus. There's actually several clusters in there, that's well worth having a look at, but there are a lot fainter so they tend to get missed off. So NGC 1764, this nice flashy, quite loose cluster with some quite bright members, but a lot a smattering of fainter members as well. So it does tend to get missed off So if you've never seen it, this is your chance. So browse around. And what you find is that Ceres is to its upper right. It is a couple of degrees away, to be fair from it. But Ceres is around about ninth magnitude. So, you know, binoculars, you should be able to pick it out. And the reason why I wanted to pick this particular scene off is the 11th and 12, we're looking really not just Ceres. It gives you a chance if you've got a telescope to home in on Ceres because there is... Now wait for it. The magnitude, a magnitude thirteen point eight asteroid or minor world Nina. So if you're named Nina, I'm sorry, it's not named after you. It's going to be one of the Greek Roman gods, etc. sort of thing, you know, never really gone into that. But look, it's 799 in the asteroid database, but it's quite close to Ceres. And the thing is, usually these really find minor planets get missed because they're not easily observable, but it's really useful. It's a bit like we said about the Moon next to a bright star or a moon next to star or a deep sky, your eyes drawn to the silver object because of the Moon. So Ceres allows you to find Nina. Now Ceres will be passing Nina and moving away from it. So this is why you've got it really is technically the 10th and the 11th, really when they're actually at there closest. So you use this dwarf planet Ceres to actually find 779, Nina, and you'll be able to find another object and another of the Solar System's many, many bodies. But it is very faint. I think you're looking at a 10 inch telescope or greater, to be quite honest. Photographers, though, will be able to record it better. And if you take a sequence of pictures, I'd say starts on the 9th so a little bit earlier and run through to like the 12th or 13th. And you should tell us if we have clear skies, We're always optimistic BBC BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Oh, we've got to be haven't we Ezzy. We have to assume every night is going to be clear. So I think, yeah, absolutely. And then we have the farmers complaining because it isn't raining. There's no cloud and they need it for the crops. So we've got to have a nice balance. We do have to have the rain, of course. Also, astronomers prefer writing during the day unless of course, you're a solar observer. So he can't win, can you? You can't win. So that's a chance to use Ceres and see going past a cluster. Now, the open cluster is easy to see, but if you have a good chart, you can actually find Ceres and then you can use Ceres to find this little asteroid. Thirteen point eight magnitude 779 Nina, so, yeah, minor worlds, but still part of our little family of Solar System objects, aren't they now to move on to the 12th, we're still in the evening sky and we're back to the Moon. I know our favourite object isn't, as is always the... because it's the most dominant, but I like it when it makes patterns. And on the 12th, it's actually in Leo. It's to the slightly to the upper left of Regulus. But he actually makes a bit of a trapezoidal shape with three of the stars of Leo in the Sickle part of the asterism. So you've got Regulus at the bottom, you've got Eta, the next star and then your Algeiba, which is Gamma Leonis. And again, Gamma is a fantastic golden pair of stars. It's a double star, similar distance separation, I say Castor. Sort of thing so whereas with Castor, it's pure white, two gorgeous white stars and Algeiba is gorgeous golden yellow stars next to each other in the sky.

Ezzy Pearson Ooh, lovely.

Paul Money Oh, it is. Definitely. I mean, it is to me one of the gems in terms of double stars of the spring sky. And just keep going back to look at it sort of thing, but you do need to use a bit of magnification on it. And I say at the moment, you've got the moon on the 12th, about nine o'clock, you know, it's about the right time. It's not convenient time, isn't it? And you've got this trapezoidal shape with Algeiba Eta and then Regulus. Regulus being the heart of the Lion, the king of the actual constellation and Alpha Leonis. So there we are. Sorts of things so well worth having a look at those now. Leo and Virgo are relatively large. Bit like we mentioned about Gemini before. It takes at least three days for the Moon to cross. If the Moon starts right on the border on one side and goes to the border, the others on Leo is a bit similar. So it takes a while for it to get across. And then if you wait until the 15th and 16th... On the 15th, the Moon is heading towards full. So obviously the sky is going to get light. It's going to drown off all of the faint stars. But it won't drown out the stars to the upper right of the Moon on the 15th. And that's Porrimer. And again, if you're going to start thinking I've got an obsession with double stars, aren't you? I know I can. I know, I know.

Ezzy Pearson Don't you?

Paul Money But but well, I do. I suppose I do, actually, to a certain extent, because I do like looking at them. Porrimer is a really tight double, and Palmer is one of those odd ones whereby sort of thing, if you observe over a few years, you can actually see the separation changing. And in fact, at times it can be incredibly difficult. In fact, amateurs can't separate them. They're so close. But the good news is widens so we can split them easily. So Porrimer another pair of white stars next to each other, a gorgeous pairing. So I have a look of that, and the Moon is acting the guy, so it points in the direction some parameters to the upper right of the Moon on the 15th. Now that means Spica is directly below, it's Alpha Virginis. So it's well below is quite a few degrees, well below the moon. So if you see Porrimer, then the Moon, then well below you'll see Spica And Spica is the dominant star actually of Virgo, but the Moon will be to its left and it will be full on the 16th, so it's the lower left of Spica itself. And so the thing about the full Moon is that we've often... I can remember a lot of books when I first started in astronomy many, many years ago, you understand. But often saying the full moon is the worst time to observe the Moon. You don't get any sharp relief from craters or anything like that sort of thing. The best times to observe, you know, when the Terminator is sweeping across the actual landscape. But the fact is, there are features on the Moon that are really highlighted during full Moon of close to full moon phase. And that's the ray features on the Moon. So, you know, don't ignore the moon when it's full. Do you have a look at it? There's a lot of fun about it being at supermoons and close moons and furthest moons and whatnot. To be quite frank, nine times out of 10, visually, you can't tell the difference. You don't know. You can't mentally keep an image from one month to the next and then visually compare. Photographers can, and you can see the difference when you take photographs without.

Ezzy Pearson I've seen some, some really interesting kind of like photo collages and type things where people have tracked it over like an entire year, and you can see it sort of growing and shrinking again. Those are always really fun. So if anybody fancies a photography challenge, maybe there's one.

Paul Money That'd be a brilliant one. Because, you know, when we forget that the Moon's orbit isn't perfectly circular, it does vary. And so there are times when it's further away. So it's smaller. When it's clear nearer, it's larger, so well worth having. Of course, is when it larger, when they tend to call it the supermoon, when it's a lot larger than normal, but visually we don't you can't really tell the difference. I had somebody tell me once that, Oh, it's absolutely brilliant, so they're much brighter than normal, I thought "if I can't tell the difference, and I'm a seasoned observer". You know you say you can't keep the memory from one full moon to the next. It just doesn't work like that. But I mean, there are features and then the ray features, I think, and there are some bright craters as well to look out for on the Moon that stand out really well during full Moon. So full Moon is a time when you can observe it and you will see features and say Tycho's rays in particular extend right across the disk. At times, you can follow them for literally thousands of miles. So well worth seeing how many of the ray patterns you can actually see. So don't ignore a full Moon. Full Moon is got its own wonder about it sort of thing if you use a telescope. Finally, this week on the 17th, we're in the evening sky. Look around towards the west southwest. Very low now. This is bright evening twilight, but if you low in the west southwest about 9:00 p.m. again by now. 9:00 p.m. We're beginning to see the sky get in line to see as the month has progressed. Even during the course of the week, the sky is getting lighter at nine o'clock. But you will look for and you will see Mercury. Mercury had moved into the evening sky and it has good and bad apparitions in the evenings and this is a relatively good one, so it will carry on through the rest of April, so we'll deal with that next week. But Mercury in actual fact is in the evening twilight itself. But I mentioned the last gasp the other week, but this could be really your last gasp to get Uranus. Now it will be difficult. It's in bright twilight. I like challenges. I'd like to see if it can be done something of 5.8 magnitude planet in such a bright evening twilight. But when you've got a bright planet near it, it's well worth having a go at just to see if you can actually spot it sort of thing. Whether you better pick it up photographically, I don't know. So this is the evening twilight sort of thing. Use Mercury as a guide for Uranus, which will be to ease slightly to its lower left sort of thing is not very much lower, but it will be to the lower left. But after that, you will, we will have lost Uranus. It'll be too low in the evening twilight and heading towards solar conjunction. But whilst it does that, mercury will start to climb higher in the sky. So there we are Ezzy. Another week of events for us.

Ezzy Pearson Sounds like there's quite a few doubles win there for people to to try and split apart if that's what they like, as well as a whole bunch of other stuff. So whatever you feel like there should be something this week for you to observe. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us about it all Paul

Paul Money It was a pleasure.

Ezzy Pearson If you want to find out even more spectacular sites that will be gracing the night sky throughout the month, be sure to pick up a copy of BBC Sky at Night magazine. Well, we have a 16 page pull up sky guide with a full overview of everything worth looking up for. Whether you like to look at the Moon, the planets or the deep sky, whether you use binoculars telescopes or neither, our Sky guide has got you covered with detailed star charts to help you track your way across the night sky from all of us here at BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Goodbye.


Chris Bramley Thank you for listening to this episode of the Star Diary podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine, which was produced in our Bristol studio by Brittany Collie. For more of our podcast, visit our website at Sky at Night Magazine Dot Com or head to Acast, iTunes or Spotify.


Ezzy Pearson is the News Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.