This evening – April 21, 2016 – look eastward to see the full moon near Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. The bright moon (and Spica) will be out all night long, to subdue the Lyrid meteors on their expected peak night. The most Lyrid meteors are expected to fly in the few hours before dawn April 22, but the light of the full moon is sure to wash out all but the very brightest.
April 22 - Full Moon - The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 05:24 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers. This moon has also been known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Growing Moon, and the Egg Moon. Many coastal tribes called it the Full Fish Moon because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.
April 21, 22 - Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. It peaks this year on the night of the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. Unfortunately this year the glare from the full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors. If you are patient, you should still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
Even if the weather in your area doesn't cooperate, you can still get a look at these shooting stars. The online Slooh community observatory will air a free Lyrids webcast at its website: www.slooh.com.
The webcast will include live views and sounds of the meteor shower along with expert commentary by Slooh asronomer Bob Berman and colleagues.
You can also watch the Lyrid meteor shower webcast on Space.com, courtesty of Slooh.
Let's talk about that Pink Moon first. It's set to bloom this week, but will it really be pink?
Well, no, it won’t, according to fullmoonphases.com. The name comes from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the first widespread flowers of the spring.
But it's likely to interfere with another anticipated celestial event, the Lyrids Meteor Shower, which peaks Thursday and Friday, April 21-22.
Earthsky.org says interference from the full moon could make the meteor shower a bust.
That's too bad, too. Although the Lyrids don’t produce a lot of meteors — typically, around 10 to 15 on a moonless night — they are known for uncommon, difficult-to-predict surges that sometimes bring up to 100 meteors per hour.
This meteor shower also is usually a crowd-pleaser because the Lyrids tend to be bright and often leave trails, which may be enough to overcome the drenching moonlight during the peak, April 22.
Mark these upcoming dates for meteor showers in 2016:
A full moon rises about the same time as the peak of the Lyrids, which could make this shower a bust for stargazers. It’s too bad, because although the Lyrids don’t produce a lot of meteors — typically, around 10 to 15 on a moonless night — they are known for uncommon, difficult-to-predict surges that can sometimes bring up to 100 meteors per hour. Another aspect that makes this shower a crowd-pleaser is that the Lyrids tend to be bright and often leave trails, which may be enough to overcome the drenching moonlight during the peak, April 22
This shower peaks over several days, and a new moon should make for ideal viewing conditions. The Eta Aquarids produce feweer meteors n the northern United States and Canada, but may be more active in the Southern Hemisphere, where 10 to 20 meteors an hour are possible, earthsky.org says. Peak viewing time is about two hours before dawn. The meteor shower figures to be the most active on May 6, but watch on May 5 and May 7 as well.
This shower also favors the Southern Hemisphere and tropical latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. Up to 20 meteors per hour can be expected from this shower. There’s no definite peak time for the Delta Aquarids, and the medium-speed meteors go on fairly steadily through late July and early August. Best viewing times are an hour or two before dawn, but the meteors will compete with a waning crescent moon in late July. You may be able to see some in early August under a new moon.
If you can catch only one meteor shower in 2016, make it the Perseids, which often produce 50 to 100 fast, bright meteors per hour during the peak and are known for persistent trains. You’ll have to get up early to catch them, though, because a bright moon will intrude with viewing in the evening hours. The best bet is to watch after the moonset and before dawn on Aug. 12 — that’s when the Perseids produce the most meteors per hour, anyway. Here’s some more good news: the Perseids deul with the Delta Aquarids in early August to make this a prime time for meteor shower viewing.
This shower also favors the Northern Hemisphere. What sets this shower apart from others is that the Draconids are most likely to fly in the evening hours. It’s usually a sleeper of a sky show, earthsky.org says, but in rare instances, the constellation Draco the Dragon in the northern sky can fire off hundreds of meteors in a single hour. A waxing crescent moon could intrude some on this shower.
The glare of a waning gibbous moon in the early morning hours just before sunrise could intrude with the Orionids, which typically produce 10 to 20 meteors per hour. Most meteors in this shower tend to fall after midnight, and they’re typically at their best in the wee hours just before dawn. The Orionids also sometimes present bright fireballs.
Though the best viewing conditions are likely to be after midnight on Nov. 5, the Taurids are very long-lasting, from Sept. 25-Nov. 25. They only offer about seven meteors an hour, but the Taurids are known for having a high percentage of fireballs. This is the first of two Taurid meteor showers, and it always adds a few more meteors to the South Taurids’ peak night.
This shower is long-lasting, too, from Oct. 12-Dec. 2, but modest as well with only about seven meteors an hour, with most of the activity taking place around midnight. The meteors are slow moving, but very bright. The waxing gibbous moon could outshine this year’s shower.
Some of the greatest meteor storms in history have been associated with his event, which can produce rates of thousands of meteors per minute during a span of 15 minutes, as occurred on Nov. 17, 1966. “ Some who witnessed the 1966 Leonid meteor storm said they felt as if they needed to grip the ground, so strong was the impression of Earth plowing along through space, fording the meteoroid stream,” earthsky.org says. In most years, though, the constellation of Leo the Lion whimpers rather than roars, producing about 10 to 15 meteors an hour, especially just before dawn this year. Unfortunately, the bright light of a waning gibbous moon will offer some competition.
The last meteor shower of the year is usually one of the finest meteor showers visible in either the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere, but a full moon will be out all night, subduing the typically prolific Geminids, which can produce up to 120 meteors per hour. The shower peaks around 2 a.m.
This minor meteor shower often goes unnoticed. Produced by the dust grains left behind by the comet Tuttle, it produces only about five to 10 meteors an hour. The shower runs from Dec. 17-25, but it should peak around the 21st. The moon will be 23 days old at the time of peak activity, so it shouldn’t present too much of a problem.
Full Moons and Supermoons in 2016
Here are the dates for full moons in 2016, according to space.com:
- Jan. 23: Wolf Moon
- Feb. 22: Snow Moon
- March 23: Worm Moon
- April 22: Pink Moon
- May 21: Flower Moon
- June 20: Strawberry Moon
- July 19: Buck Moon
- Aug. 18: Sturgeon Moon
- Sept. 16: Harvest Moon
- Oct. 16: Hunter’s Moon
- Nov. 14: Beaver Moon
- Dec. 13: Cold Moon
Three of these moons — Oct. 16, Nov. 14 and Dec. 13 — will be supermoons, according to seasky.org.
» Photo of Quadrantids meteor shower by Jimmy Westlake via NASA