Your Night Sky for April 30, 2020


Comet SWAN

Unfortunately Comet ATLAS broke it’s over performing trend the second week in April. This often happens as comets get closer to the Sun.  But we were hoping it wouldn’t. Its brightness is diming, making it not visible with unaided vision, but you’ll still be able to see it with binoculars or a telescope. That’s a current prediction, but it may go away in May. We won’t know for a while.


Another bright comet has suddenly appeared. This is comet C/2020 F8 SWAN. It’s going to pass Earth May 13.  If it survives, the best time for us to view it is mid to late May. It’ll be low in the NE at dawn. On May 22 it will greet Comet ATLAS in that same region of the sky. It comet SWAN stays bright; we’ll be able to see it with unaided vision. Certainly we’ll see it with binoculars.


The Eta Aquariid meteor shower is coming up in a few days. It peaks May 5, but unfortunately the bright full moon is on the 7th and is the last full super moon for this year. This is another morning meteor shower, and the best time to view it will be May 4 when the moon sets close to 4:30 a.m.  So we’ll have some time to view them before the sky gets too light. This is basically a southern meteor shower, and we live far enough south to view it.


This meteor shower is one of 2 that’s associated with Halley’s comet. The other one is the Orionids in October. Unfortunately the spring one only does about 10 per hour. They actually occur from April 19 to May 28, so you’ll be able to look for them a little earlier. I would say maybe May 1 or 2. Later in May the moon won’t be interfering, so you may be able to see a few meteors then.


Actually the New moon is May 22, so the sky will be dark for viewing. These meteors will be low in the east and will appear to the upper left of Mars. This meteor shower is predicted to be more active this year, so hopefully that’s really going to happen. Then we may see 10-30 per hour.


They occur as Earth plows through a troll of dust and rocks ejected by Halley’s comet. Gravitational nudging from Jupiter causes these meteors to reach a peak rate about every 12 years. So stronger activity is predicted to happen this year or possibly next year, and hopefully that happens. They are fast bright meteors that frequently leave persistent streaks of glowing air.

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