Science

Of super moons, meteor showers and more in Coimbatore

A file photo of a supermoon

A file photo of a supermoon   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

Science educator Obuli Chandran tells Coimbatore’s star gazers what they can expect to see in the skies this month

 

“We are in the middle of a series of supermoons (a full moon when it is at the closest distance from earth, also referred to as perigee),” says Obuli Chandran, science and astronomy educator and co-founder of Mango Education, excitedly. “The last was on March 9, the next is on April 8 (day after tomorrow) and the one more will occur on May 7.”Obuli is excited about the April 8 event because “this is the closest the moon gets to the Earth.” The full moon moment is 8.05 am, he says, by which time the sun will be shining bright. “Try a couple of hours before sunrise,” he advises, “when the moon can be seen towards the west.” It can be seen on April 7 and 8 evening as well.”

“Visually it will not be distinguishable from any other full moon, as it appears only marginally bigger and brighter,” he says, adding a piece of advice to “observe the moon when it is just rising or setting … it will appear bigger in size than when it is well up in the sky due the famous moon illusion.”

Obuli also explains why it is called a ‘pink moon’. Not because the moon will turn pink. “People have named it differently connecting it to their cultures and onset of seasons,” he laughs. “In North America, a wild flower native to the region and pink in colour blossoms around this full moon. Hence the name ‘pink full moon’.”

Conjunction of Crescent Moon, Venus and Pleiades

Conjunction of Crescent Moon, Venus and Pleiades   | Photo Credit: Obuli Chandran

Obuli also suggests that people can look out for other celestial bodies while moonwatching. One cannot miss the planet Venus, he says. “Around 30 to 45 minutes after sunset, when the sky is reasonably dark, look towards the west. You will see a bright point of light that is not twinkling. That is Venus. Also, if you are a morning person, wake up around 3.00 am and look eastwards, you will see three planets: Saturn Mars and Jupiter shining bright enough to be visible to naked eye. To observe other celestial objects like star clusters, galaxies or the Milky Way band, a moonless night would be best,” he observes.

Info you can use
  • April has had two rare celestial spectacles: a conjunction between Mars and Saturn on April 1 and another of Venus and Pleidas on April 3.
  • Forthcoming spectacles are a Lyrid meteor shower on April 22 and Eta Aquarids meteor shower on May 4 & 5.
  • Obuli will answer queries on astronomy and physics and upcoming astronomical events at Mango Open House session number 121. On April 8, 6.45 to 8.00 pm. The session will be held online. There is no entry fee but registration is required. Register at bit.ly/qawithobuli or contact 9952243541 for details

Watch | What stargazers can look forward to this April

The lockdown has reduced the level of suspended particulate matter leading to enhanced visibility near the horizon. And this had aided stargazers. Obuli explains, “Polaris or the Pole Star, which is not usually visible to naked eye from Coimbatore city limits as it is low in the horizon, has been visible in the last few days.”

Apart from the planets mentioned earlier, he has also observed star clusters like Pleiades and Ptolemy’s Cluster and constellations like Orion, Ursa Major, Canis Major, Scorpio, Gemini, Taurus, Bootes, Southern Cross and more. All these can be observed in the coming weeks as well.”

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 1:42:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/what-can-coimbatores-star-gazers-expect-to-see-in-the-skies-this-month/article31269878.ece

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