Welcome to Ontario Parks’ “Eyes in the Skies” series. This space (see what we did there?) will cover a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.
For those of us in Ontario, April is that transition month between winter and spring weather. The snows begin to melt, the lakes begin to open and, at the end of the month, the first buds may appear on the trees.
Here are our astronomical highlights for April 2023:
Sunrise and sunset times:
|April 1st||April 15||April 30th|
|Sunrise||7:06 a.m.||6:42 a.m.||6:14 a.m.|
The moon has long captivated observers of all ages. The lunar phases of the April moon occur as follows:
Get ready for Southern Ontario’s total solar eclipse in 2024!
On April 8, 2024, the Great American Eclipse will be visible from areas just south of Toronto. This will be the first total solar eclipse to come this close to Toronto and southern Ontario since January 24, 1925!
While the weather is quite unpredictable, planning ahead can allow you to visit one of our parks for the perfect view of a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Did you know that many First Nations teachings, including those of the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee people, use the back of a turtle’s shell as a lunar calendar?
After their incredible conjunction on March 1, the planets Jupiter and Venus move further and further away from each other (Venus moves up in the western sky at sunset and Jupiter moves down).
Conjunction of Jupiter (left) and Venus (right). Note the moons of Jupiter, Ganymede and Io.
Venus continues its magnificent rise from the western horizon at sunset. In late April, it sets almost four hours after sunset, around 12:30 am. Seeing the spectacularly bright white Venus against the dark blue twilight background is one of the most beautiful nighttime sights to behold.
Comets and meteor showers
April brings us the first decent meteor shower since April: the Lyrids (which originate in the constellation Lyra the Harp). While not as spectacular as the more famous Perseids and Geminids, the shower can easily provide up to 20 meteors per hour when best viewed from a dark sky location and after 1:00 a.m. on April 23.
On any given night, in the dark skies of provincial parks, between five and ten meteors can be seen per hour, especially after midnight.
Featured constellations: Bears and Dragon
In last month’s blog, we discussed some of the constellations that stand out in the spring: Leo the Lion, Cancer the Crab, and Coma Berenices (the hair of Queen Berenice of Egypt).
This month, we will focus on two of the best-known constellations, as well as one of the longest, visible in the night sky: Ursa Major, Ursa Major (Ursa Major) and Ursa Minor, Ursa Minor (Ursa Minor).
Find more information about this month’s constellations.