Amateur astronomers have great sky watching to look forward to this month

Amateur astronomers have great sky watching to look forward to this month
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We’re halfway through April, but amateur astronomers and backyard sky gazers still have some spectacles to look forward to in the nighttime sky. Starting on the 16th of April, the annual Lyrid meteor shower began. Each year that meteor shower kicks off when the Earth travels through what remains of the tail of a comet called Thatcher.

The Thatcher comet only comes around once every 400 years, but it’s left the solar system strewn with debris from its tail. When that debris hits the earth’s atmosphere, we see streaks of light in the sky, typically called shooting stars. The annual meteor shower happens between April 16 and April 25, with the peak occurring on April 22.

No matter what day you watch during that peak viewing range, the predawn hours are the best time to see shooting stars. The meteor shower gets its name because it occurs near the Lyra constellation, which can be found by locating the bright star Vega. If getting up early to watch shooting stars isn’t your thing, 2021’s first supermoon, known as the pink moon, happens on April 26.

It’s worth noting that the moon will not appear pink in the nighttime sky. One interesting tidbit about the supermoon is that the word “supermoon” isn’t an official astronomical term and has come to mean the point where the moon is closer in its orbit to the Earth. Despite the name’s origins, the supermoon will appear larger and brighter than regular full moons if you compare images side-by-side.

However, most people are unable to tell the difference with the naked eye. As for where the name pink moon came from, it was named after certain types of wildflowers known as pink moss that bloom in the spring. Astronomers expect the supermoon to have a golden hue, and its brightest illumination will happen late on April 26.