NASA has just recently announced that the moon will appear very close to Mars on Thursday morning, along with Jupiter and Saturn nearby, in a week that is giving skywatchers a lot to enjouy. In Thursday's predawn sky, the moon is expected to pass the 3.5 degree line below and to the left of the Red Planet itself according to space.com
Skywatchers can apparently encounter this sight on the low to the east-southeast horizon.
According to Gordon Johnston, the acting Planetary Program Executive at the NASA Headquarters in the NASA Science blog, April 16 will be the date that people can see the waning crescent moon that will appear below Mars with Jupiter and Saturn to the right.
The blog dictates that the moon is expected to rise in the east-southeast at 3:42 ET for the Washington, D.C. area and that they should be visible until morning twilight begins which is at 5:29am for the D.C. area.
Although the world appears quite close to the sky, they are still actually very far apart. The moon itself is about 243,000 miles from the Earth while Mars is said to be 124 million miles away.
On Tuesday early morning, the natural satellite has just moved very close to Jupiter and on Wednesday around 3:30am, the moon was reported to pass around 3 degrees to the slightly bottom left of the gas giant Saturn according to space.com.
The importance of this Thursday
The American Meteor Society has also said that Thursday will also be marking the beginning of activity for the Lyrids which is a medium strength meteor shower that is expected to run until April 30. The meteor shower is also expected to peak on the night of both April 21 and 22, when the moon will be near its all new phase, meaning it will be almost invisible.
Around 10 different meteors (which are oftentimes referred to as "shooting stars") per hour might be visible around the peak, which itself is going to last for a few hours. However, the good meteor rates can usually be seen on the nights before and also after the peak as well.
The Lyrids is said to produce really bright meteors and even the rare fireball. These are known to be exceptionally bright shooting stars that can be seen over a wide area according to NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies.
Meteor showers are considered celestial events in which the several shooting stars actually appear to originate from a single point in the sky as what astronomers call the radiant. These showers are known to be the result of the Earth passing right through a cosmic debris that is left behind by some comets and even sometimes asteroids.
In this specific case of Lyrids, these bits and pieces of debris that burn up from within the atmosphere are thought to come from the very comet known as the C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which has previously passed through the inner solar system back in 1861.