Following the Full Moon
Friday’s full moon is commonly called the Grass Moon and the Egg Moon. As the first full moon following vernal equinox, this is also the Paschal Moon, used to pinpoint the dates of Passover and Easter.
The moon appears full through the weekend, shining pretty much from dusk till dawn. Blue-white Spica twinkles a few degrees away, while golden Saturn is a little farther still. Saturn is at its best this month, revealing its rings to even a modest telescope. Spica is the 16th brightest star, and its parent constellation Virgo one of the more familiar.
Not so for the lowly crow, Corvus, which hosts the full moon Friday. In this trapezoid of 11 dim stars, the brightest four are only second- and third-magnitude. Corvus is one of 48 original constellations plotted by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century. According to one legend, the crow was originally white. Apollo, the Greek sun god, sent the bird to spy on his lover, Coronis. When Corvus returned with news of her infidelity, Apollo burned the crow’s feathers black.
Early morning Tuesday, look for the waning gibbous moon a few degrees above the scorpion’s red heart, Antares.
As the sun sets, Venus appears perched high in the west, so bright you might mistake her for an airplane. Until setting before midnight, this evening star rules the heavens, and she only grows brighter over the next couple weeks.
While Venus climbs ever higher, her one-time companion Jupiter is slipping toward the horizon and setting shortly after sunset.
In their parallel orbits, Earth has overtaken Mars, and the two are pulling apart at a rate of 4.5 million miles each day. Needless to say, the red planet is shrinking and growing more dim as it drifts farther away.