Backyard Astronomy: April 2014

Here are some fun astronomical events you can watch from your own backyard. 

April 8: Mars at opposition. Opposition is when a planet is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun (see below). It’s the best time to view a planet through a telescope.


April 15: Total lunar eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth moves between the Sun and the Moon (see below). Unlike a solar eclipse, in which the Moon moves between the Sun and the Earth, you don’t need any protective eyewear to watch a lunar eclipse.


April 28-29: Annular solar eclipse. This is also known as a “ring of fire” eclipse, due to the way the Moon only partially blocks the Sun. During a total solar eclipse, the Moon moves between the Sun and the Earth and is at just the right distance from the Earth to completely block out the Sun. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves between the Sun and the Earth, but the Moon is far enough away from the Earth that it appears slightly smaller in the sky than the Sun. Protective eyewear is required to safely view an annular solar eclipse.