The moon has returned to sweeten the evening. Watch for a thin crescent low in the western sky tonight below the Seven Sisters star cluster. Tomorrow it moves upward, thickens a bit and shines near the V-shaped Hyades star cluster. Topping off the weekend, the crescent will stand just 2 degrees left of the planet Jupiter Sunday. If there ever was a gift that keeps on giving, it’s the moon.
Time to catch Comet PANSTARRS … again. While it’s faded to near the naked eye limit, it’s still plainly visible in binoculars, particularly 7×50 or 10×50 models or larger. The comet is probably easier to find than ever because it’s passing through the bright W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia during the next two weeks. Look for it about 90 minutes after sunset in the northwestern sky. PANSTARRS has a brighter head topped by a faint, fan-shaped tail.
While observers in the northern U.S., Canada and Europe will get equally good views at both dusk and dawn, sky watchers in the southern U.S. will have better luck at dawn when Cassiopeia is higher in the sky. The view through a telescope is still the best with the comet showing a bright head and nucleus and a classic, gently-curving tail to the north.
More good news. A strong solar flare erupted in sunspot group 1719 early Thursday morning April 11 sending sprays of solar protons and electrons in Earth’s direction. You know what that means.
Major storm levels and auroras are possible overnight tonight through Sunday the 14th. With little interference from the moon, this could be a good show. I’ll be keeping an eye on the space weather and send out an alert this evening if auroras sprout.