Almanac for April and May 1999

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Springtime is butterfly time.


1 April Fools’ Day; first day of
2 Good Friday; Pascua Florida Day; Jupiter
at conjunction with the sun (and therefore unviewable);
this day 25 years ago an anemometer atop Cannon Mountain in
New Hampshire reported three wind gusts of 200 m.p.h. or
more; this day in 1915 (it was the day before Easter),
Philadelphia had 19 inches of snow.
3 Twenty-five years ago this day and next,
greatest tornado outbreak on record: in one 24hour period,
14 states from Mississippi to New York (and onward into
Canada) were struck by a total of 148 tornadoes, which
killed 315 people and injured 5,500.
4 Easter; set clocks ahead (“spring
forward”) one hour at 2 a.m. Standard Time for start of
daylight saving time.
5 This day in 1987, a storm ended after
three days with up to 60 inches of April snow in Great
Smoky Mountains National Park, on the border of Tennessee
and North Carolina.
6 This morning in 1936, the morning after
a tornado killed 216 people in Tupelo, Mississippi, another
twister killed 203 in Gainesville, Georgia.
8 LAST QUARTER MOON, 10:51 p.m. EDT;
Buddhists celebrate Buddha’s Birthday, said to be in 566
B.C. or 563 B.C.
11 Orthodox Easter; this day in 1970,
Apollo 13 launched off on what became the most harrowing
U.S. mission in space.
12 Venus nearest the Pleiades star cluster
(use binoculars) in west after nightfall; this day in 1961,
Yury Gagarin became the first human to go into space.
13 Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday.
16 NEW MOON, 12:22 a.m. EDT.
17 Islamic New Year–actually begins
at the previous sunset, and only if the “young moon” (moon
soon after new moon) is sighted. (Islamic New Year is based
on a lunar calendar, and as such, its date steadily
migrates backward through the solar calendar.)
19 Patriots’ Day (Maine, Massachusetts);
sun enters constellation Aries.
Venus nearest the star Aldebaran (a fairly
sizable 7.3° away from it); sun enters astrological
sign Taurus.
21 Queen Elizabeth II’s Birthday; Baha’i
faith’s Festival of Ridvan starts (see article, page
22 FIRST QUARTER MOON, 3:01 p.m. EDT; peak
of Lyrid meteors–late after midnight and moonset
tonight best time to look for these shooting stars, which
will then be zooming out of the east; Earth Day.
23 St. George Day in Britain.
24 Mars at opposition (best time to
observe it), rising opposite the sun and visible all night
25 Hubble Space Telescope deployed this
day in 1990; Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand.
27 Saturn at conjunction with sun (hence
29 St. Catherine’s Day.
30 National Arbor Day; FULL MOON, 10:55
p.m. EDT; May Eve.


1 May Day (Beltane); Mars nearest to Earth
and largest in telescopes; Mercury near Jupiter in east as
morning twilight brightens, but very low; Zoroastrian
holiday, Maidyoi Zaramaya, today through May 5 (see
article, page 12).
2 Eta Aquarid meteors (debris of Halley’s
Comet) shoot out of southeast before dawn for next five
days or so, but only a few might be seen in bright
moonlight; Baha’i faith’s Festival of Ridvan ends.
3 Venus now at about highest in west at
sunset that it will get this spring, itself not setting
until the hour before midnight (altitude declines only
slightly by end of May).
4 This day in 1812, 12 inches of snow fell
in Keene, New Hampshire.
5 Venus now becomes closer than the sun to
Earth; Venus 0.7° from asteroid Ceres (telescopes and
detailed finder chart needed to identify the asteroid; see
May issue of Sky & Telescope magazine); Alan Shepard
became the first American in space this day in 1961.
6 Halfway point of spring.
7 On this day in 1840, the Great Natchez
Tornado struck Natchez, Mississippi, killing 317
8 Truman Day in Missouri; LAST QUARTER
MOON, 1:28 p.m. EDT
9 Mother’s Day; Rogation Sunday.
11 Days of the Three Ice Saints, today
through May 13; Mars now within 5° (half the width of
your fist held out at arm’s length) away from the bright
star Spica–and closing a tiny bit more each
13 Mercury just 0.62° from Saturn (a
pencil at arm’s length can hardly fit between them), but
low in the east-southeast in the hour before dawn (try
looking with binoculars); Ascension Day.
14 Sun enters Taurus; Skylab launched this
day in 1973; on this day in 1896, Climax, Colorado
15 Armed Forces Day; NEW MOON, 8:05 a.m.
EDT; highest astronomical tides of year today; Gordon
Cooper was launched in Faith 7, last of the Mercury program
18 Eruption of Mt. St. Helens this day in
19 Jupiter at the innermost part of its
orbit, closest to the sun in space (but still almost 500
million miles away), for the first time in 12 years.
20 Mars 3° due left of Spica at
21 Shavuot; sun enters astrological sign
Astronomy Day.
23 Pentecost (also named Whitsunday, or,
literally, white sunday, probably after the white robes
worn by those newly baptized at this season); Declaration
of the Bab (Baha’i faith).
24 Victoria Day in Canada.
25 Asteroid Juno at opposition (opposite
the sun in the sky and visible all night).
29 Ascension of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i
faith); Oak Apple Day (Restoration Day) in Britain.
30 FULL MOON, 2:40 a.m. EDT; Venus 4°
south of the star Pollux.
31 Memorial Day (observed); Pluto at
opposition; Mars 2° from Spica (quite close) and
closing; this day in 1889, 2,207 killed in Johnstown,
Pennsylvania, flood.