APRIL 2020 SKY-LENDAR OF EVENTS: Lyrids, Supermoon, and more planet pairings

The month of April is still rich with cosmic eye candies. So while everyone stays at the comfort of their homes to help alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re here to give you a heads up on when to look up the sky. Most of these can be seen from your windows or backyard (inshallah).

For starters, we’ll have the Lyrid meteor shower. Peaking on the night of April 22 until the dawn of April 23, the Lyrids will showcase a 10 to 20 meteor-per-hour display under a completely dark and cloudless sky.

This meteor shower is named after the Lyra (The Lyre) or the constellation where it appears to radiate from. The space debris from comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher) entering Earth are the ones creating the beautiful streaks in the night sky during this period.

Radiant of Lyrids on April 23, 2020, at around 12 AM (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

This year we’re tad luckier, because of the New Moon on April 23, so the sky will be dark enough all throughout the night for stargazers to enjoy watching this spectacular astronomical event.

Also, if you’d want to get serious with astrophotography—and your space at home and equipment (like binoculars and telescopes) allow it—the New Moon is also the best time to capture galaxies such as the Bode and Cigar in the constellation Ursa Major, nebulae like the Flame and Horsehead, and the Leo Triplet. Constellations like the Orion and the brilliant open star cluster Pleiades (Seven Sisters) in the Taurus constellation can also be seen as the night progresses.

Bode & Cigar Galaxies, Flame, Horsehead & Orion Nebula (Image Credit: Aldrin B. Gabuya/Thabet Al Qaissieh/Al Sadeem Astronomy)
Leo Triplet, Sunflower Galaxy, and Milky Way Galaxy (Image Courtesy of Al Sadeem Astronomy)

Look up on April 8, as the Moon in its full phase reaches its perigee—or its closest distance to the Earth—for the third time this first quarter of 2020.

In layman’s term, this April Full Moon is called a “Pink Supermoon.” But there’s nothing “pink” and “super” about it. Supermoon is a term coined by an astrologer in 1979; it’s more scientific term is “perigee-syzygy.” On this night, the Moon is only approximately 7% bigger and 16% brighter than its usual form as seen from the Earth.

As for the “pink,” the color of the Moon has nothing to do with it. The Earth’s natural satellite will actually be a golden orange to a bright white in color. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, “the name comes from pink wildflowers called creeping phlox that bloom in early spring, under April’s full moon, per Catherine Boeckmann at the Old Farmer’s Almanac.”

Because of the Moon’s brightness, it will not be a good time for deep-sky observation.

The Full Moon taken from Al Sadeem Observatory last March 9, 2020 (Image Credit: Al Sadeem Astronomy)
A comparison of ordinary full Moon with a Supermoon, or a full Moon at perigee (Image Credit: AldrinGabuya/Al Sadeem Astronomy).

The planet  Jupiter – dwarf planet Pluto duo will be in conjunction on April 9 and will be visible in the early morning hours—from 3:30 AM until sunrise. But before you look for them, make sure you have a large-aperture telescope and a bit of patience for long-exposure photography for you to see them both clearly.

Jupiter-Pluto(marked) Conjunction on April 9, 2020, at around 4 AM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

But on April 15, keep an eye on planets Jupiter and Saturn, as well as the Waning Crescent Moon, at the southeastern horizon of the sky from 3 AM of April 15 until sunrise the following day. The giants will appear close to each other, with Jupiter appearing as a bright white “star,” and Saturn looking like a yellowish dot.

Moon-Jupiter-Saturn Appulse on April 15, 2020, at around 4 AM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

Look out the window on April 16 to see the Red Planet Mars dancing to a close approach with the Waning Crescent Moon. At 4 A.M, the pair will be seen above the southeastern horizon until it fades into view at sunrise.

Moon-Mars Conjunction on April 16, 2020 at around 4 AM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

The brightest planet Venus will also appear close to the Moon in its waxing crescent phase. That’s on April 26, at the western horizon just right after sunset and will say hello to stargazers in self-quarantine, until the pair sets at around 9 PM.

Moon-Venus Conjunction on April 26, 2020 at around 6:30 PM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)
Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn taken from Al Sadeem Observatory (Image Courtesy of Aldrin B. Gabuya/Al Sadeem Astronomy)

Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2020. (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2020.html

Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: http://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2020&month=4&maxdiff=4#datesel

Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, April 2020. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=4&year=2020