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Celebration of Space - April 3, 2020

This Comet C/2019 Y4 Atlas captured on March 27, 2020 by Brown University's Robert Horton and processed by Scott MacNeill.

This Comet C/2019 Y4 Atlas captured on March 27, 2020 by Brown University's Robert Horton and processed by Scott MacNeill.

On April 3, 2020, the fantastic conjunction of Venus and the Pleiades that has been happening all week, will come to a climax, with Venus visibly joining the Pleiades. Though Venus and the Pleiades get into conjunction quite often, tonight will bring Venus much closer, visibly, than usual. We understand that New England is under its usual spring cloud attack and we can’t have nice things, but you may have a spot of clear sky over your location. If so, this is not an event to miss! Step outside about 1 hour after sunset and look to the WSW. Venus will be the super bright star-like object in the sky, which will be sitting so close to the left of the Pleiades that it will look like it is joining the star cluster. If you have some skills with shooting the night sky, PLEASE capture a photo and share it with us, either on our Facebook, Twitter, or email (, and we will share it to our social media so everyone in New England can enjoy. Though tonight is the best night to catch the conjunction of Venus and the Pleiades, the conjunction will continue over the next several nights. So step outside each night and catch a view of this fabulous celestial dance.

This weekend, and coming week, fantastic evening passes of the International Space Station (ISS) over the US and the Northeast will continue, coming to an end on Thursday, April 9, 2020. Last week brought numerous passes, though no spectacular passes. Well that is going to change this week, as most passes will be quite awesome with a few amazing passes on the list. Here are all passes this week:

Fri, Apr 3, 2020 at 7:39pm, starting in the NW, rising to 31º, heading towards the E
Fri, Apr 3, 2020 at 9:16pm, starting in the WNW, rising to 35º into orbital sunset
Sat, Apr 4, 2020 at 8:29pm, starting in the WNW, rising to 66º, heading towards the SE into orbital sunset. ← Fabulous pass!
Sun, Apr 5, 2020 at 7:42pm, starting in the NW, rising to 74º, heading towards the ESE ← Fabulous pass!

Sun, Apr 5, 2020 at 9:20pm, starting in the W, rising to 13º, heading towards the SW into orbital sunset
Mon, Apr 6, 2020 at 8:32pm, starting in the W, rising to 22º, heading towards the S into orbital sunset
Tue, Apr 7, 2020 at 7:44pm, starting in the WNW, rising to 36º, heading towards the SSE
Thu, Apr 9, 2020 at 7:48pm, starting in the WSW, rising to 13º, heading towards the SSW

Put these times on your calendar and set your alarm. This will be the last week of evening passes over our region for a month, with evening passes returning on May 15, 2020. This can be a fun family activity to help survive quarantine and staying at home. It’s also a chance to get outside and breath the fresh air. Let the pass inspire a discussion among your family members about what it’s like to live on the ISS, humanity’s only space based residency. Thing of that level of confinement! Regardless, these passes are excellent and it’s always great to remind ourselves of what we are capable of. So have a great week of ISS passes!

Comet C/2019 Y4 Atlas continues to brighten and is dimly binocular visible. Over the past couple weeks we have had a chance to observe the comet at Frosty Drew, which has a very large coma (atmosphere that forms around the comet’s nucleus). The comet has moved into the constellation Camelopardalis, the giraffe, and will continue to rise higher in the sky over the next couple weeks. The comet is due to pass the Sun (perihelion) on May 31, 2020 and will continue to brighten past that date. Check out this image that Brown University’s Bob Horton captured and Scott MacNeill processed of Comet Atlas this past week

Check in regularly on the Frosty Drew Facebook, and the Frosty Drew website for updates on what is happening in space, as well as updates on our remote Stargazing Nights events. Also, put a real effort into staying positive! Times are tough right now and you don’t know what battles each other may be fighting. Be kind, be positive, and be there for each other. As Carl Sagan put it “In all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves”.


Scott MacNeill
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Apr 3, 2020
Published Under:
Scott MacNeill's Columns
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