This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through April 29, 2015. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
Venus, the brightest planet, gleams in the western sky starting at sunset. Venus sets in the west-northwest at 11:00 p.m. Use a telescope to see the planet’s gibbous phase.
While Venus blazes in the west, bright Jupiter is nearly overhead in the south in the dim constellation Cancer the Crab. The planet can be observed until it sets in the west at 2:30 a.m. A telescope is required to see Jupiter’s dark and bright cloud belts. The famous oval storm, the Great Red Spot, can be seen when it is on the side of Jupiter facing us. In Los Angeles, the best Great Red Spot views happen on the 23rd at 9:29 p.m., the 25th at 10:08 p.m., and the 28th, at 8:38 p.m., PDT. Twice this week, one of Jupiter’s moons will eclipse another. To find out more, go to our Jupiter’s moons events web page.
The waxing moon is obvious after sunset. It is crescent through the 24th, first quarter on the 25th, and gibbous on the days that follow until the next full moon, on May 3rd. The moon sets at 11:46 p.m., PDT on the 22nd, and at 3:41 a.m. on the 29th. The moon appears near Jupiter on the 25th.
Saturn is in the southern constellation Scorpius the Scorpion, and is best seen between midnight and dawn. A telescope is needed to see Saturn’s magnificent ring system.
The Lyrid meteor shower reaches its peak on the night of April 22/23. The best time to see the meteors is between moonset, at 11:46 p.m. and the start of dawn at 4:42 a.m., PDT, when up to 18 meteors per hour may be expected at a dark, wilderness observing site. Urban and suburban light pollution masks the meteors and vastly reduces the number that can be seen. The meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Lyra the Lyre that lies close to the shower’s radiant, the direction from which the meteors seem to stream. The Lyrid radiant moves from the northeast to nearly overhead by dawn, when the greatest numbers of Lyrid meteors are expected.
The International Space Station can be seen when it passes over Los Angeles on Thursday evening, April 23rd. Nearly as bright as Venus, the ISS will appear at 8:11 p.m., PDT, over the northwest horizon. It passes overhead at 8:14 p.m., and vanishes into Earth’s shadow when it is 13 degrees above the southeast horizon at 8:17 p.m.
This week is the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. To celebrate, Griffith Observatory is holding a number of free public events from Friday, April 24 though Sunday, April 26. This weekend of activities will include free talks by scientists, engineers, and astronauts associated with the famed orbiting telescope. The events are detailed on our Hubble event web page.
The Hubble Space Telescope itself will make its best appearance over southern California during the dawn of the 23rd. The HST will emerge from Earth’s shadow, already 28 degrees high in the south-southwest and slightly to the left of Saturn, at 4:46 a.m., PDT. It will be visible and as bright as a moderately bright star with a magnitude of 1.8 until it makes its way to the southeast horizon at 4:49 a.m. The HST currently orbits 339 miles above Earth’s surface.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the schedule. The next public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, April 25.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.