This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, April 1, 2015. Here is what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The waxing moon gains prominence in the night sky this week. Its phase changes from crescent to first quarter on the 13th and is gibbous for the rest of the week. The time of moonset changes from 1:04 a.m. on the 26th to 5:08 a.m. on the 1st of April.
The brightest planet, Venus, shines about 30 degrees high in the west at sunset and sets at about 10:00 p.m. Venus displays a gibbous phase through a telescope.
The second brightest planet, Jupiter, shines from Cancer the Crab. Jupiter is visible at sunset, high in the eastern sky, moves to the south by 9:40 p.m., and sets at about 3:30 a.m. Use binoculars to pick out Jupiter’s four largest moons, and use a telescope to see the dark belts and bright zones of Jupiter’s cloudy atmosphere. A telescope will enable you to watch as the shadow of the Galilean satellite Io eclipses another Galilean satellite, Europa, on the morning of Friday, March 27. The eclipse of Europa will last from 12:53 to 12:58 a.m., PDT, and will darken Europa by 0.6 magnitude, a factor of 57 percent. A list of events involving pairs of Jupiter’s satellites, known as mutual satellite events, is listed on our special webpage. The moon appears near Jupiter on the 29th. The moon and Jupiter are featured this week through Griffith Observatory’s public telescopes.
The ringed planet, Saturn, rises at about midnight and is highest in the south shortly before the start of dawn. The planet is in Scorpius the Scorpion, and outshines the constellation’s brightest star, Antares, located 10 degrees to the lower left of Saturn. A telescope is needed to see Saturn’s magnificent ring system. Saturn will move into the evening sky before summer begins.
Three members of International Space Station Expedition 43, including American astronaut Scott Kelly, are due to launch on Thursday, March 27, at 12:42 p.m., PDT. This crew should reach the ISS six hours later. The launch aboard a Soyuz spacecraft will be shown live from Kazakhstan on NASA TV. Two members of the Expedition 43 crew, including Commander Kelly, are the first people scheduled to stay a full year on the ISS.
The week’s best appearance of the International Space Station over Los Angeles will take place on Monday morning, March 30. The ISS will cross the sky from northwest to east-southeast between 5:41 and 5:47 a.m., PDT. The brilliant satellite will appear highest at 5:44 a.m. when it is 55 degrees above the northeast horizon.
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 our 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, March 28.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.