The sky this week from April 22 to 29
friday april 22
The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks tonight. Its radiant, located near the luminous Vega in Lyra the Lyre, rises around 8 p.m. local time. For the best shower night vision, you’ll want to let that radiation go as high as possible, so wait until late tonight before heading out to watch shooting stars.
Unfortunately, the radiant will not rise very high before midnight; if you’re willing to stay out until the wee hours of tomorrow morning or get up a few hours before sun on the 23rd, your outlook will be a bit better. Early morning is always best to see meteor showers, as this is when the Earth’s rotation results in faster moving meteor showers with longer trails. Lyrid meteors typically move through our atmosphere at speeds of around 30 miles (50 kilometers) per second — not particularly fast, as far as meteors go.
The Moon won’t interfere with your sighting late tonight, increasing your chances of spotting more meteors. However, the maximum rate of Lyrids at the peak is only around 18 meteors per hour – and this number will be lower in reality, as the radiant will not be sitting directly overhead.
Sunset: 7:46 p.m.
Moon setting: 10:55
Moon phase: Waning gibbous (59%)
*Times of sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset are given in local time from 40° N 90° W. Illumination of the Moon is given at 12 p.m. local time at from the same place.
Saturday April 23
The last quarter moon occurs at 7:56 a.m. EDT. This lunar phase is characterized by early morning rise times, which means nighttime is now the perfect time to see fainter deep sky objects.
Today, however, your evening target is a bright magnitude of -0.4: the planet Mercury. This month brings us the best nocturnal appearance of the small planet in 2022, and it will reach its maximum elongation with respect to the Sun in just a few days. But first, tonight offers a unique chance to step back in time and see Mercury as Giovanni Schiaparelli saw it 140 years ago.
Schiaparelli began studying Mercury in 1882 and immediately saw what he believed to be a giant figure 5 on the planet’s dark surface. Today, Mercury presents us with a view nearly identical to what Schiaparelli saw in early 1882.
Begin by locating Mercury, which is nearly 20° above the western horizon at sunset. It’s the first bright spot that appears after sunset, making it easy to find. The planet sets around 9:30 p.m. local time, and the best views will come sooner rather than later, as twilight fades and Mercury is higher above the turbulent air on the horizon.
Zoom into Mercury with any telescope and you’ll see the planet’s 6.8″ wide disc is 56% illuminated, compared to the 7.0″ wide, 53% illuminated planet that Schiaparelli saw February 6, 1882. The longitude of Mercury’s central meridian tonight is 85°, down from 86° in 1882. And if you have a larger telescope (6 to 10 inches), a peek through the The eyepiece will put you squarely in the shoes of Schiaparelli, offering the same level of detail. Do you see the dark number 5, or the bright spot of the Kuiper crater, which is near the limbus, just to the left of 5?
Sunrise: 6:10 a.m.
Sunset: 7:47 p.m.
Moon setting: 12:06
Moon phase: Ascending descending (48%)