Space Junk: April 2015


Photo Credit & Copyright: My sad attempt at the big low albedo rock in the…

Below I have listed most of the major night sky events for this month, birthdays, events in history etc. I have also listed all resources used to generate these monthly calendars at the bottom of the post so dig in, learn and enjoy!

Here’s a list of all major 2015 Celestial Events here:

Interested in Planetary Motions for 2015? Here ya go!:

How about Meteor Showers for 2015?

WERE YOU BORN ON A FULL MOON?! This great page from Moon Giant shows you what phase the Moon was in when you were born; check it out. (this may not work on your phone):

All dates and times were calculated using Military Time & Universal Time (UTC) and I also throw in eastern U.S. time (EST or EDT depending on whether its Daylight Savings or not) but beware, early morning events for UTC will actually likely be late night events on the previous date for the US. For example if something is scheduled to occur at 02:00 UTC on the 14th, that’s 21:00 EST on the 13th.

Another important thing to remember is that a calendar day is actually daylight sandwiched between two darks so when an event says, March 29 for example, you’ve got to check the time because March 29 could very well be in the morning before sunrise and not that coming night.

Finally, calculating events on the Moon is that it’s not as simple as “Ok it’s 40% illuminated so we should see this.” I wish it was that easy but because of libration, locations on the disk of the moon move slightly as we see them. One month an event could occur at 52% illumination and the next month it could occur at 54% illumination etc.

APRIL (All Month in mid-northern latitudes) – If you have dark skies (I mean REALLY dark) look west about an hour to an hour and a half after sunset to witness the “False Dawn” or Zodiacal Light rising high into the sky along the plane of the ecliptic. Want more info?

APRIL (All Month) – A couple months past Opposition, Jupiter is still looking great through March. Keep an eye on it, look for the Great Red Spot and the 4 Galilean moons as they will be eclipsing and occulting each other through summer in a process known as “mutual events.”

APRIL 01 (Wed) – Entering the month the Moon is 12 days old in its 29.53 day Synodic Cycle and 92% illuminated in its waxing gibbous phase.

APRIL 01 (Wed) – Apogee Moon occurs at 12:42 UTC (08:42 EDT) where the Moon is at its furthest point from Earth in its current orbit and will be subtending at 29’ arc minutes from a distance of 406,027 km (252,293 mi).

APRIL 2, 1845: 1st ever image of the Sun was captured by Louis Frizeau.

APRIL 2, 1959: NASA Training Group 1 “Mercury 7” chosen.

APRIL 3, 1926: Birth of Gus Grissom.

APRIL 3, 1966: Luna 10 becomes 1st to orbit the Moon.

APRIL 04 (Sat) – The Full Moon will occur at 12:07 UTC (08:07 EDT). (Name information provided by The Farmer’s Almanac).  Full Pink Moon – April This name came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month’s celestial body include the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

APRIL 04 (Sat) – Total Lunar Eclipse! On the morning of Saturday April 4 those of you up early or still awake from a great night the night before will be treated to a beautiful however brief event; a total lunar eclipse.  Why do I say brief?  Well because totality is only scheduled to last about 4 or 5 minutes. In fact, this eclipse will be the shortest total lunar eclipse of the century! So if you plan to view this event plan and know where you want to be. Although it’s not uncommon for a lunar eclipse to follow two weeks behind a solar eclipse and vice versa, this particular event (back to back total eclipses) we won’t see again until 2033 and I believe the last time it happened was back in 2003.

For those observers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South America you will want to find a clear view of the western horizon as the Moon will be not long from setting.  If you have a coastline, take advantage of it. For those observers in the west; Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China etc. you will want to be looking east on the night of April 4th after sunset.

Total Eclipse Begins: 11:58 UTC (04:58 PDT) (07:58 EDT).

Total Eclipse Ends: 12:03 UTC (05:03 PDT) (08:03 EDT).

Here’s my post on this event:

APRIL 04 (Sat) – The Moon reaches Ascending Node at 03:17 UTC (23:17 EDT on the 3rd).

APRIL 5, 1949: Birth of Judy Resnik.

APRIL 06 (Mon) My single favorite phase of the Moon occurs around 95 % illumination just after full phase. I call it the “Full Crater Chain” and it’s when the terminator runs right through Mare Crisium. The chain runs up through Cleomedes, Burckhardt, Geminus, Messala, Endymion and even more impressively below Crisium through Langrenus, Vendelinus, Petavius and Furnerius. If you catch it just right you can enjoy a secondary treat as Petavius’s central peak becomes illuminated and shines alone in the darkness of the crater itself. (NOTE: With libration it may not form properly this month.).

APRIL 6, 1973: Launch of Pioneer 11.

APRIL 7, 1991: Compton Gamma Ray Observatory reaches orbit.

APRIL 8 (Wed) – Saturn gets to within 2 degrees of the Moon.

APRIL 8 (Wed) – Jupiter gets to within 2 degrees of the Beehive cluster (M44).

APRIL 8, 1971: Wethersfield CT meteorite hits home of Mr. & Mrs. Cassaino.  Incredibly, 11 years later (November 8, 1982) yet another meteor hit another home in that very town.

APRIL 10 (Fri) – Sunset on the lunar scarp; Rupes Recta or the “Straight Wall” is visible about the day of or day after last quarter (about 45-50% illuminated) the setting Sun causes it to look white as it illuminates the slope.  Two weeks later, during lunar sunrise after first quarter it will appear black.

APRIL 10 (Fri) – Pico Mons Sunset.  The day of or day after last quarter (around 50% illuminated) the setting Sun hits Pico Mons in Mare Imbrium, near Crater Plato and casts a long shadow along the lunar plains.

APRIL 10 (Fri) – The Moon is at its Greatest Southern Declination of -18.14 degrees.

APRIL 11, 1970: Launch of Apollo 13 from KSC LC-39A.  CSM-109 “Odyssey”, LM-7 “Aquarius” and Saturn V AS-508.

APRIL 11 (Sat) – The brilliant Walther Sunset Ray will occur around 13:28 UTC (09:28 EDT). Located in the ancient 145 kilometer (90 mile) Necterian age crater named Walther (Formerly Walter or Valtherus) is a special treat that occurs monthly for a matter of a few hours when illumination is around 44%. On the western rim of the crater there’s a notch and when the Sun is setting low on the lunar horizon (When the crater is near the terminator) light penetrates the notch, creating a vast triangle or “V” shaped light ray across the craters floor that ends as it illuminates the central peak of the crater. Walther Crater a heavily eroded crater located in the Lunar Southern Highlands at the Selenographic Coordinates (Definition below) of Latitude: 33.1°S / Longitude: 1.0°E. It’s named after German astronomer Bernhard Walther. This crater also has a sunrise ray that instead of a light ray is a long shadow cast by the central peak.

APRIL 12, 1961: YURIS NIGHT!  Launch of Vostok 1 and Yuri Gagarin “Cedar” becomes the 1st human being in space and the 1st to orbit the Earth.

APRIL 12, 1981: Launch of the 1st space shuttle.  STS-001 Columbia from KSC LC-39A.

APRIL 12 (Sun) – Last Quarter (3rd Quarter) Moon occurs this month at 03:45 UTC (23:45 EDT on the 11th).

APRIL 12 (Sun) – The CURTISS CROSS, is a creation of shadows throughout craters Gambart and Parry which create an “X” shaped formation and will occur around 19:00 UTC (15:00 EST).  The Curtiss Cross is associated with the third (last) quarter Moon and forms about 14 hours past the third quarter mark.

APRIL 13 (Mon) – 24 (Fri) As of Monday the 13th we are on the verge of April’s new moon (Lunation 1142), this week presents nights that are the absolute BEST nights to get out and observe Deep Sky Objects (DSOs) because you won’t have to look through the spotlight that is the Moon. Night skies without the Moon are significantly more productive for viewing and photography ANY night sky object (besides the Moon itself of course). For the lucky ones, this week offers the amazing spectacle of the extreme crescent moon, both waning in the east & waxing in the west.

APRIL 13, 1970: Apollo 13 tank rupture.

APRIL 14, 1629: Birth of Christiaan Huygens.

APRIL 14, 1981: Landing of STS-001 Columbia at Edwards AFB Runway 23.

APRIL 15, 1970: Apollo 13 goes behind the Moon and in doing so become the furthest from Earth humans have traveled (401,056 km).

APRIL 16, 1867: Birth of Wilbur Wright.

APRIL 16, 1972: Launch of Apollo 16 from KSC LC-39A.

APRIL 16, 1973: Final rollout of a Saturn V SA-513 Skylab 1 to LC-39A.  America’s first space station on the shoulders of the final Saturn V.

APRIL 17, 1970: Apollo 13 returns to Earth safely.

APRIL 17 (Fri) – Perigee Moon occurs at 03:45 UTC (23:45 EDT on the 16th) and is when the Moon is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit. It will be subtending at 33’arc minutes from a distance of 361,017 km (224,325 mi).

APRIL 17 (Fri) – The Moon reaches Descending Node at 13:07 UTC (09:07 EDT).

APRIL 18 (Sat) – New Moon (LUNATION 1142) occurs at 18:59 UTC (14:59 EDT).

APRIL 21 (Tue) – Moon gets to within a degree of red supergiant Aldebaran.

APRIL 21, 1972: Apollo 16 touches down on the lunar surface at Descartes.

APRIL 22 (Wed) – The Moon reaches its Greatest Northern Declination of +18.16 degrees.

APRIL 22 & 23 (Wed night & Thurs morn): Lyrids Meteor Shower: 2015 meteor shower kicks off this month with the oldest known meteor shower; the Lyrids.  Peak viewing will be on the night of Wednesday the 22 and especially the morning of Thursday the 23 before sunrise.  Peak rate this year will be a modest 20-ish per hour but the 15% waxing crescent Moon will have little to no impact so with patience, the show could be promising.  With the name Lyrids, you will obviously want to look in the general direction of the constellation Lyra and the parent body of this event is caused by Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher.  As always, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Peak might be 22/23 but active dates range from the 16th to the 25th so if it’s clear, have a look!

Peak night is usually a given night and next morning with the “next morning” being the absolute best time to watch. In fact the closer to morning twilight you can get, the better…’s why. If you view the solar system from the top, planets orbit the Sun in a counter clockwise motion, we also rotate in a counter clockwise motion. That means just before sunrise the Earth is pointed in the direction of travel of the Earth itself and meteors are mere “bugs (Or if you prefer; “snowflakes”) hitting the windshield” of Spaceship Earth. For more info on this shower hit the link:

APRIL 25 (Sat) – First Quarter Moon is the Moon watchers paradise. Occurring at 23:56 UTC (19:56 EDT), First Quarter Moons and the waxing crescent phase leading up to it offer some of the most visually stunning views the Moon has to offer. Most of us will take the beautiful curves, valleys and shadows of a 1st Quarter Moon over a Full Moon ANY day.

APRIL 25, 1990: Happy 25th Birthday to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope!

APRIL 26 (Thu) – LUNAR-X also known as the PURBACH or WERNER CROSS is scheduled to begin forming the “X” around 04:45 UTC (00:45 EDT on the 25). The Lunar-X is the big, more prominent brother to the Curtiss Cross. This “X” is created by shadowing throughout the rims and ridges of craters LaCaille, Blanchinus and Purbach. The “X” formations occur along the terminator (where “day” meets “night” across the Moon).  It typically begins just after first quarter when the Moon is approximately 53% illuminated.

APRIL 26 (Sun) – Sunrise on the lunar scarp; Rupes Recta or the “Straight Wall” is visible the night of or the night after first quarter (around 60% illuminated) the rising Sun causes it to look black as its shadow is cast.  Two weeks later, during lunar sunset it will appear white.

APRIL 26 (Sun) – MAGINUS SUNRISE RAY will occur around 23:41 UTC (19:41 EDT). At the right times and as the Sun rises over the Crater Maginus (Near the terminator) a beautiful sun ray shines through a break in the craters eastern wall. The result is a vast triangle or “V” formation of light cast upon the crater floor for a period of a few hours. Maginus Crater (Named after Italian astronomer Giovanni Antonio Magini) is a pre-Nectarian impact crater located in the southern lunar highlands and to the south east of Tycho Crater. It’s 110 miles (177km.) and has been extremely eroded by subsequent impacts on or near the site through the millennia. Its selenographic coordinates (Definition below) are Latitude: 50.5°S / Longitude: 6.3°W.

APRIL 27 (Thu) – Pico Mons Sunrise occurs the night of or the night after first quarter (around 62% illuminated) the rising Sun hits Pico Mons in Mare Imbrium, near Crater Plato and casts a long shadow along the lunar plains.

APRIL 30 (Thu) – Mercury gets to within 2 degrees of the Pleiades (M45).

APRIL 30 (Thu) – Leaving the month the Moon is 11 days old in its 29.53 day Synodic Cycle and 88% illuminated in its waxing gibbous phase.

***Definition of LIBRATION (basically) – Is an oscillation of an orbiting body relative to another. OK, so…We know the Earth/Moon system is tidally locked so we always see the same side of the moon. Due to libration, we ACTUALLY see about 60% of the Moon instead of what you may intuitively think of as a 50% measurement. That’s because the Moon oscillates slightly as it rotates and orbits Earth. So, on occasion and with a keen eye we can see a little further “around the corner” north, south, east and west on the moon by a couple degrees.

***SUBTENDING Explained – Definition: The angle formed by an object at a given external point. The moon subtends an angle of approximately 0.54° (32 arc minutes) to an observer on the Earth. Of course, the moon’s orbit is not constant or exactly circular, so this varies a little, but not by very much. If you hold up your thumb at arm’s length, you can easily cover the full moon. This means your thumb subtends a larger angle to your eye at arm’s length than the moon does at 380,000 kilometers. In general, the closer you are to a particular object the larger that subtending angle.

***SELENOGRAPHIC COORDINATES Defined – Selenographic coordinates are used to refer to locations on the surface of Earth’s Moon. Any position on the lunar surface can be referenced by specifying two numerical values, which are comparable to the latitude and longitude of Earth. The longitude gives the position east or west of the Moon’s prime meridian, which is the line of longitude passing through the point on the lunar surface directly facing Earth. (See also Earth’s prime meridian.) This can be thought of as the midpoint of the visible Moon as seen from the Earth. The latitude gives the position north or south of the lunar equator. Both of these coordinates are given in terms of degrees. Astronomers defined the fundamental location in the selenographic coordinate system by the small, bowl-shaped satellite crater ‘Mösting A’. The coordinates of this crater are defined as: Latitude: 3° 12′ 43.2″ South / Longitude: 5° 12′ 39.6″ West. The coordinate system has become precisely defined due to the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment. Anything past 90°E or 90°W would not be seen from Earth, except for libration, which makes 59% of the Moon visible.

NASA | Moon Phase & Libration Northern Hemisphere 2015:

NASA | Moon Phase & Libration Southern Hemisphere 2015:

2015 Moon phases with TIMES:

2015 Moon phase & illumination calendar:

2015 Perigee & Apogee DATES, TIMES & DISTANCES as well as Full & New Moon dates & times (John Walker’s Fourmilab):

2015 Perigee & Apogee:

Lunar Ray predictions:

Farmer’s Almanac Full Moon Names:


Greatest NORTHERN & SOUTHERN Declinations of the Moon (Richard Nolle’s Astro Pro):

FULL YEAR of Lunar Cycles: Previous and Future years as well:

Full & New Moon Calendar:

Sun/Moon Rise & Set times:

Sun/Moon Rise & Set times for the DAY:

Sun/Moon Rise & Set times for the YEAR:

BLUE MOON Calendar:

SUPERMOON Calendar (Richard Nolle’s Astro Pro):

Moon Phases for ANY date:


Moon right NOW:

Moon right NOW:

Moon right NOW:

NASA JPL Ephemeris Calculator:

Lunar Ephemeris Calculator:


Sunrise & Sunset CHART:

Kilometers (km) to miles (mi.) converter:

2015 Astronomical Events:

Occult Software:

Greatest Elongations of Mercury & Venus:

Steve Preston’s Asteroid Occultations:

US Naval Observatory Celestial Phenomena for 2015:

Seiichi Yoshida’s Weekly bright Comets:

International Meteor Organizations 2015 Information:

Satellite Tracking:

NASA Eclipses:

S&T Jupiter 2015 Observation Almanac:

S&T Galilean Moon Mutual Events:

S&T Jupiter Moon Events 2015:

Northern Virginia Astronomy Club: Jupiter Moon Events for 2015:

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