Several celestial events lined up for sky gazers

Hyderabad:  Several celestial events are lined up for sky gazers during April-May, beginning with Thursday’s partial lunar eclipse – the only visible lunar eclipse of the year in India.

The eclipse begins at 11.32 p.m. on April 25 and ends at 03.43 a.m. on April 26. According to the Planetary Society of India (PSI), people can noticeably witness darkening of the moon’s disk between 1.22-1.53 a.m.

The eclipse is coinciding with rare meteor showers, and it will be followed by conjunction of Saturn with the moon April 26.

The eclipse, which will be visible in Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe and Antarctica, is the first visible in India since Dec 10, 2011.

Though three more lunar eclipses will occur this year, including penumbral lunar eclipse May 2, and a solar eclipse May 10, none of these will be visible in India, said N. Raghunnandan Kumar, secretary, PSI.

PSI is one of the leading organisations working for promotion of space science in the country.

People will get the next opportunity to see a lunar eclipse only on Oct 8, 2014. However, this total eclipse will only be partially visible in India and that too for a few minutes.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth, in course of its orbit around the sun, comes between the moon and the sun in such a way that the moon is hidden in the shadow cast by the earth.

Thursday’s lunar eclipse is coinciding with rare meteor showers. The PSI said the Lyrid meteor showers, which began on April 16, can be seen with naked eye from pollution-free clear skies away from the city lights. Kumar said it would be a treat for star gazers as 5-18 meteors would be seen zipping across the sky every hour.

The annual meteor shower called Eta Aquarids will peak May 6. According to a report of the International Meteor Organisation (IMO), one can best see the shower from May 6 to May 12. It expects the number of meteors to be between 40 and 85 per hour at peak.

The lunar eclipse will be immediately followed by a conjunction of Saturn with the moon on April 26. Saturn will appear in the night sky like a non-twinkling star, closer to the moon.

People without any technical aid would be able to spot Saturn, which will be below the moon on the night of April 25 and above it April 26.

Another celestial event awaits star gazers April 28 when Saturn will be at its closest approach to the earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the sun.

“Saturn will be directly opposite to the sun from our viewpoint on the earth. It will be closest, biggest and brightest it can get in year 2013 on April 28,” Kumar said.

The PSI has announced Saturn observation campaign India 2013 from April 28 to Oct 17 to create awareness about Saturn. It has invited schools, organisers of summer camps and other organisations to join the campaign.


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