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Celebration of Space - April 10, 2020

This coming Sunday, April 12, 2020 is the date of Easter for this year. Regardless of how you feel about the Easter holiday, we are sure you have noticed that it doesn’t fall on the same day each year, like many of the other yearly holidays. This is because the date of the Easter holiday is astronomically calculated. To figure what day Easter will fall on for any given year, you need to know the date of the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring), and the date of the following full lunar phase. The Easter holiday will occur on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. Since the first Full Moon to occur since the Vernal Equinox was the Full Pink Moon, which happened this past Tuesday, April 7th, that places the date of Easter this coming Sunday.

Since the start of the year, Venus has been rising higher and higher in the western sky after sunset, as well as growing brighter. Venus reached Maximum Eastern Elongation on March 24, 2020, which is when Venus reaches the point in its orbit when the tangential angle, when viewed from Earth, forms a right angle with the Sun. Think of a triangle comprised of a straight line starting at Earth and ending at an inner planet, then another line from the inner planet (inferior) to the Sun, and a third line extending from the Sun to Earth. When the line from Earth to the inner planet and the line from the inner planet to the Sun form a right angle (90°), you have maximum elongation of the inner planet. Consequently, when the line from Earth to an outer (superior) planet and the line from the Sun to Earth form a right angle, you have quadrature of the outer planet Eastern Elongation means that the inner planet is at maximum elongation while being placed on the eastern side of the of the Sun in Earth’s sky. This past couple weeks, Venus has waned into its waning crescent phase, and will continue to wane until it reaches Inferior Conjunction on June 3, 2020, which is when Venus arrives in between Earth and the Sun. Though Venus will continue to wane well into a super thin crescent, it will continue to grow brighter because it is moving closer to us with each passing day. If you have a backyard telescope or high power binoculars, step outside each night over the next few months and catch a view of Venus in the western sky after sunset and notice the rate at which it wanes. Check out this image of Venus that I captured this past Monday, April 6, 2020 for remote physics labs at Brown University.

Have a great holiday from all the astro-geeks at Frosty Drew Observatory in whatever way you celebrate.

Scott MacNeill
Author:
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Apr 10, 2020
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Scott MacNeill's Columns
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