EVENTS AND NAKED EYE VIEWING
NOTE: All Sky Charts Courtesy of SkyGuide App Unless Otherwise noted.
April 18 (Thursday) Full Pink Moon. I'm on an alternate names for Full Moons kick this year. Although the Pink Moon is the "standard name", I like the Sprouting Grass Moon because pink phlox is not common everywhere where grass is. We are hoping that the Moreno Valley will begin "greening up" by now along with the longer and warmer days that bring the wonderful color of the wild Iris blooms.
April 23 (Tuesday) Jupiter within 2 degrees south of the Moon. You need to get up early to see the waning gibbous Moon get together with Jupiter. This is a repeating event that happened the last two months, so here's your third chance to see it. Look above the southern horizon at 5 AM to see Jupiter 1.6 degrees below and slightly left of the waning gibbous Moon. If you use binoculars or a small telescope, you'll also see Jupiter's four Galilean moons (from east to west: Callisto, Io, Jupiter, Ganymede, and Europa).
April 25 (Thursday) Saturn less than 1 degree north of the waning gibbous Moon. This is also a repeating event, but with the Moon so bright and with Saturn considerably dimmer, you'll probably need binoculars to spot the ringed planet. My astronomical almanac also touts this time as an occultation of Pluto with the Moon. The two extremely far apart pair will be (angularly) only one tenth of a degree from each other at 1 PM MDT. I think this is hilarious for two reasons. One, it's happening in broad daylight and two, Pluto is so dim that you have to image it through at least a 10 inch telescope over a series of clear moonless nights from a dark sky site to confirm its movement against background stars. So yeah, it's a fairly rare occultation, but your chances of ever seeing such an event even with good astronomical equipment is virtually ZERO!
May 18 (Saturday) Full Flower Moon. This one is named well because just about everywhere in North America, spring flowers are in full bloom. But, I'm going to stick with my alternate Full Moon names mantra for 2019 and call this one the Full Corn Planting Moon. The Full Moon was very important to the Anasazi residents of Chaco Canyon and I'm sure alignments of their buildings with Moon rises and settings as well as their unique Sun Dagger calendar were useful in deciding when to plant their maize crops.
May 28 (Tuesday) Minor Planet Ceres at Opposition. Ceres (SEAR-eez) is by far the largest object in the asteroid belt. It contains a third of the mass of all the thousands of asteroids orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres got it's upgrade to a minor planet when Pluto got its downgrade from a major planet. The reflectivity of Ceres, otherwise known as its albedo, is only 0.07. This means that only 7 percent of the sunlight that strikes the minor planet is reflected back into space. For comparison, the albedo of charcoal is 0.04, so Ceres' surface is indeed dark. That means it's hard to see even at opposition when it is at its annual closest point to Earth. For that reason, you'll need a small telescope to detect its dim magnitude 6.96 brightness. Ceres will manifest itself as a pinpoint of light among other dim stars in the lower right corner of the constellation Ophiuchus (OH-fee-YOU-cuss) The Serpent Bearer or Snake Handler. In order for you to tell it apart from other stars around it, you need to view it for a few nights in a row to see it move in relation to the extremely far away "fixed position" background stars. That ain't gonna happen, so a more practical solution is to use a computerized GOTO telescope that can accurately center Ceres in the eyepiece field. The technique I use is to point my portable Meade ETX 5 inch scope to a nearby bright star like Antares, center that star in the eyepiece, then use the synchronizing feature on the scope's keypad to "teach" the telescope the exact location of Antares. Next, enter Ceres in the keypad object menu and press the GOTO key. The scope will automatically slew to the new position and the dim "star" you see closest to the center of the eyepiece field will most likely be Ceres. Some people may think that this is a lot of fuss to see a small dim dot, but think of it this way. You will be one of a select few of the human race who has seen Ceres as it is in real time. See TELESCOPIC HIGHLIGHTS for a sky chart to help you locate Ceres.