Our Night Sky

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Look for Omega Centauri Star Cluster

Now that you’ve found Jupiter and Spica, you may be able to see the Omega Centauri star cluster. It’s highly visible in the southern hemisphere, but we’re far enough south that we should be able to find it as long as the mountains don’t get in the way.
Because it sits so low in our sky, it’s best to search for it as late as you can.
Right now Spica is highest after midnight, but by the end of this month it will reach its high point around 11:30 p.m. Omega Centauri is 35 degrees below Spica, which is 3.5 fists when you hold out your arm in front of you. So that will give you an idea if you can see it.
With unaided vision it looks like a faint fuzzy star, but obviously binoculars or a telescope will show you more of what it really is. Omega Centauri is the largest and finest globular star cluster visible to the naked eye.
Globular clusters are large symmetrically shaped groupings of stars that are distributed around the core of our galaxy where there are more than 250 of them. Very few of them are visible unaided. With 10 million stars, Omega Centauri is the largest and most luminous of these clusters. It’s even thought that it may be the remains of a dwarf galaxy that the Milky Way absorbed.
Mars is becoming visible close to the Pleiades star cluster. For about five nights they will be almost next to each other. The bright red star Aldebaran is to the left of the Pleiades, and is currently two times as bright as Mars. So to find Mars look for the fainter of the two red “stars” close to the Pleiades. This will be visible about one-quarter of the way up in the WSW sky. Start looking on April 15.
Meteor showers are returning! The Lyrid Meteor shower is coming up on the night of April 21-22. You may see a few meteors for a few nights before then, but that’s when they peak.
They radiate from the Vega constellation which rises around 9-10 p.m. Obviously the best viewing will occur when Vega reaches its highest point in the sky after midnight, but you should be able to see a few by the time it rises.
The Lyrids are not known for producing a lot of meteors, usually only 10-20 per hour. But some years there are strong outbursts with as many as 90 per hour.
The waning crescent moon shouldn’t interfere with the viewing. If you look in the evening they’ll be in the NE, and move to the SW by morning. If it’s still dark when you get up, go look out a SW window. Give yourself an hour to observe since they come in spurts and lulls.
So enjoy our first meteor shower for the year, and see if you can find Omega Centauri.

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