This Month’s Sky

The Nantucket Sky in April 2014
  • Family Silhouette on Moon
  • The planet Saturn as seen by Hubble Space Telescope
  • Moon with new Telescope
  • Spiral galaxy
  • Field of stars and galaxies seen by Hubble Space Telescope.
  • The Maria Mitchell Association's Loines Observatory.

The 7.5-inch Clark refracting telescope at the Maria Mitchell Observatory.

The 8-inch Clark refracting telescope at the Maria Mitchell Observatory.

The Maria Mitchell Observatory is named in honor of the first woman astronomer in the United States, a native of Nantucket.

MMO offers public stargazing twice a month at Loines Observatory (59 Milk Street), weather permitting.  Please consult the MMA calendar for dates. Stargazing begins at 9:00 pm and ends at 10:30 pm.  The Observatory has two telescopes, a beautifully refurbished antique 8-inch Clark telescope and our new state-of-the-art 24-inch research telescope. The evening will include telescopic viewing of the Moon when possible (with the crater named after Maria Mitchell), exploding stars, star clusters, galaxies and other celestial objects, as well as a comprehensive tour of the constellations.

If you’d like to know when noteworthy astronomical events are taking place such as solar flares, meteor showers or the International Space Station passes over Nantucket, be sure to subscribe to our AstroAlert notices or follow @ACKstronomy on Twitter so you won’t miss anything!

Quick glance: What’s in the sky over Nantucket right now!

1.  The Sun

Sunrise (for the first and last days of the month): 6:23 am; 5:39 am

Sunset (for the first and last days of the month): 7:04 pm; 7:36 pm

 2. The Moon Phases of the Moon

A lunar eclipse will be visible from Nantucket on April 15th. The best time to see it (when the moon is completely in earth’s shadow) will be from 3:08 – 4:23 AM.

New Moon:  April 28th       First Quarter: April 7th       Full Moon: April 15th      Last Quarter: April 22nd

The Moon is at its farthest position from the Earth (apogee) on April 8th and at its closest position (perigee) on April 23rd.

3. Planets visible with the unaided eye

Venus:  The closest planet to Earth, Venus can be seen low in the eastern sky for about an hour before sunrise.

Mars: The red planet rises in the eastern sky around sunset and remains visible for the rest of the night. You’ll find it near the bright star Spica.  This month is a good time to see Mars because it’s closest to Earth.

Jupiter:  The solar system’s largest planet is visible from sunset until it sets around 1AM. You’ll find it between the bright stars Betelgeuse and Pollux.

Saturn: The ringed planet rises in the East around 10pm. Even a small telescope will reveal its rings.

Mars and Saturn are visible i Nantucket's skies during April.

Mars and Saturn are visible i Nantucket’s skies during April.

4. Meteor showers

The Lyrids meteor shower takes place April 22nd and 23rd. Although not one of the most impressive meteor showers during the year, it’s possible to see about 20 shooting stars per hour at its peak. This meteor shower is produced by dust left behind from comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher.

5. Got a question?

You can email Dr. Michael West, Director of Astronomy at the Maria Mitchell Association.  You can also check out his weekly Nantucket Nights astronomy  column for the Inquirer and Mirror newspaper!

Subscribe to AstroAlert to receive up-to-the-minute notices of interesting astronomical events observable from Nantucket, or follow @ACKstronomy on Twitter!

Become a Maria Mitchell Volunteer!