Spring is here, and with it comes a warmer climate for most stargazers in the northern hemisphere. Will you go stargazing more? You should since there are several must-see events coming up in April, May and June 2021 from a spate of supermoons and two eclipses—one solar and one lunar—that all promise to be spectacular sights.
The highlights are one-off events, but don’t forget to look for, and learn, spring’s key constellations—Leo, Ursa Major, Coma Berenices, Boötes and Ursa Minor—if you want to gain an understanding of the seasonal rhythms of the night sky.
Here’s what happening in the night sky in April, May and June 2021:
1. Lyrid ‘shooting stars’
When: Just before sunrise on Wednesday/Thursday, April 21/22, 2021
Where to look: all sky
Though active between April 16-25, 2021, the Lyrid meteor shower will this year take place under the watch of a 70%-lit waxing gibbous Moon. That’s not ideal, and means you’ll only see the very brightest “shooting stars” from the expected 10 to 15 meteors per hour.
However, since the chief attraction of the Lyrids is the possibility of a super-bright “fireball,” that’s perhaps not a killer blow.
Go out stargazing when it’s really dark—around midnight—and you might see one. Besides, the best chance of seeing “shooting stars” is in the hour before dawn, when the Moon will have set in the west.
2. Venus and Mercury in a close conjunction
When: dusk on Sunday, April 25, 2021
Where to look: low on the western horizon
Look very low on the western horizon just after dusk today and you’ll see the two inner planets—super-bright Venus and much dimmer Mercury—appear just a degree apart from each other. You may need binoculars to spot Mercury just west of Venus and slightly above.
3. A full ‘Super Pink Moon’
When: moonset on Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Where to look: low the eastern horizon
A full Moon that coincides (or thereabouts) with the Moon’s perigee—the closest point in the Moon’s monthly orbit that it comes to Earth—is often called a “supermoon.”
It’s a result of the Moon’s orbit being slightly elliptical, which make the full Moon sometimes looks slightly larger. That’s what’s happening tonight, and it will be best viewed at moonrise where you are.
4. Venus and a slim crescent Moon
When: dusk on Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Where to look: low the western horizon
Is there anything more beautiful a sight in nature than a super-slim crescent Moon? Yes—a bright planet right next to it. That happens at dusk tonight when Venus will be just a degree from a 1%-lit waxing crescent Moon. It’s going to be a real challenge to find it, however, and for most viewers the sight of a 4% crescent Moon—with Venus below—the following evening will be a little easier.
5. A ‘Super Flower Blood Moon’ total lunar eclipse
When: Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Where to look: southeastern sky (only from Australia, parts of the western U.S., western South America and Southeast Asia)
2021’s third of four “supermoons” is also a total lunar eclipse—also known as a “Blood Moon.” Our satellite will move into Earth’s dark central umbral shadow for just mere 15 minutes, briefly turning the lunar surface a reddish-copper color, though only for those in western parts of North America.
6. A ‘Ring Of Fire’ annular solar eclipse
When: Thursday, June 10, 2021
Where: Canada, Greenland and Russia
Most of the northeastern U.S. and Canada will see a huge partial solar eclipse before breakfast on this day, but for those that travel to certain far-flung locations the prize is a spectacular “ring of fire” annular solar eclipse lasting 3 minutes and 33 seconds.
That will only be viewable from far north Ontario, Canada, Greenland and Russia. Since it occurs at sunrise in Canada, a scenic flight above the clouds might be the best option.
7. Our own galaxy
Where: southeast in the night sky
The bright centre of our own Milky Way galaxy is a seasonal event and it helps to know when it’s up. It emerges from the horizon in April, rising around midnight, by mid-June it rises right after sunset. The further south you travel, the more of our galaxy’s bright core becomes visible.
Times and dates given apply to mid-northern latitudes. For the most accurate location-specific information consult online planetariums like Stellarium and The Sky Live. Check planet-rise/planet-set, sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times for where you are.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.