Celebration of Space - March 31, 2023

The total eclipse stage of the Nevember 8, 2022 total lunar eclipse, which happened right at sunrise, making the Moon appear a stunning pink color just over the western horizon. Image credit: Frosty Drew Astronomy Team member, Scott MacNeill

The total eclipse stage of the Nevember 8, 2022 total lunar eclipse, which happened right at sunrise, making the Moon appear a stunning pink color just over the western horizon. Image credit: Frosty Drew Astronomy Team member, Scott MacNeill

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 1, 2023 is the annual 401 Gives fundraiser in Rhode Island. It is a day for Rhode Islanders to support Rhode Island non-profits that are making an impact in our communities. The event is organized by the United Way of Rhode Island, and is a very important fundraiser for Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center. When you donate to Frosty Drew, you are enabling us to continue the fantastic programs and events that we are known for, but your support also allows us to build out new programs, additional presentation stations, and amplify our message of inspiration and enlightenment. The first person to stand on Mars is walking around on Earth right now, they do not know it is them, and they are currently a child. At Frosty Drew we want all children to know and understand that they have that opportunity! We want to create the spark that inspires them to reach for the sky.

Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center will be hosting an online event tomorrow. We will broadcast live and archived content starting at 7:00 am on our wwebsite and on our YouTube, including personal messages from the Frosty Drew Astronomy Team members, archived telescope views of Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and more, video reels of our new telescope, as well as recent celestial images that we have captured at Frosty Drew. Our on site event plans have, sadly, been canceled due to the stormy weather conditions expected tomorrow.

We will send out another email about our fundraiser tomorrow. But in the meantime check out our event page, and our 401 Gives page to learn about our plans for the day and what the different donation levels are that we are offering.

On Thursday, April 6, 2023 at 12:37 am ET, the full Moon of April will occur. The April Moon carries the moniker the Full Pink Moon. The first thought that may come to mind, when hearing that name, is that the Moon will cast a beautiful pink hue in the night sky. Sadly, that is not the case, as the Pink Moon will look the same as most other full lunar phases. To understand the relationship with the name, one would have to look down instead of up. In April, many of the early spring flowers are in boom, including the pink moss in North America. But in 2023, the April Moon also carries another name, the Full Paschal Moon.

The Paschal Moon is the first full lunar phase of spring. The Vernal Equinox occurred on March 20, 2023, which places Thursday’s full Moon as the first full Moon of spring. For those who celebrate Easter, the date of that event is determined by the Paschal Moon. The first Sunday after the Paschal Moon will be the date of Easter. In 2023 that makes the date of Easter, Sunday April 9, 2023. Sometimes the Paschal Moon will occur in March, depending on the lunar phase cycle, called the Synodic Period, which lasts 29.5 days.

Thursday’s full Moon will rise with the setting Sun, and set with the rising Sun, keeping the Moon above the horizon for the entire night. In astronomy lingo we call this “opposition” because the Moon is on the opposite side of Earth than the Sun, with all three objects in alignment. So take a moment on Thursday night to step outside and check out the Full Pink Paschal Moon, and gear up for whatever celebrations the first full Moon of spring may bring for you.

This coming week, Mercury will start to become increasingly visible after sunset. Mercury will reach maximum eastern elongation on April 11, 2023, which is when Mercury will be at its highest point in the evening twilight sky. Starting midweek, step outside about 30 minutes after sunset and look to the western horizon. Mercury will be visible as one of the first star-like objects visible. It will not be nearly as bright, or as high in the sky, as Venus, but it will be visible. The closer you observe to April 11th, the easier the view will be. Even though Mercury will be approaching its highest point in the evening sky, it is still less than 15° over the horizon, so you will need a good view of the western horizon. The view would warrant a trip out to Point Judith, Beavertail, Brenton Point, or even Prospect Park in Providence for a view. A telescopic view will allow you to see Mercury in its waning crescent phase, just past third quarter. To the naked eye it will just look like a brighter star. Let us know if you get a view of Mercury this week.

Evening passes of the International Space Station (ISS) are wrapping up this week, with the last evening pass happening on Wednesday, April 5th. Even though the ISS is departing the evening sky for a couple of months, it will offer some amazing passes over the weekend, which all of us in Southern New England will likely miss out on due to the weather bomb of 2023. Regardless, here are some pass times for the coming nights:

Fri. Mar 31 at 8:47 pm, starting in the WNW, rising to 68°, and into orbital sunset ← Fabulous pass!
Sat, Apr 1 at 8:00 pm, starting in the NW, rising to 71°, heading towards the ESE, and into orbital sunset ← Fabulous pass!

Sun, April 2 at 8:49 pm, starting in the W, rising to 23°, heading towards the SSW, and into orbital sunset.
Mon, Apr 3 at 8:01 pm, starting in the WNW, rising to 39°, heading towards the SSE.
Wed, Apr 5 at 8:02 pm, starting in the W, rising to 14°, heading towards the SSW.

These passes will be the last evening passes of the ISS until mid May, though the ISS will return to the morning sky starting on April 21st. So make an effort to get out this week with your family, friends, or just your beautiful self, and spot the station zooming by.

Scott MacNeill
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Mar 31, 2023
Published Under:
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