April 2021

Bright Sky Digest 

Monthly SAS Newsletter
Alnitak and the Flame Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: Team ARO

April Showers Brings... May Clear Skies

Welcome to the April edition of the Monthly SAS Newsletter! This month we are excited to welcome both recently joined members over the past year in addition to those interested learning more about SAS at our New Member & Volunteering Info Session, details can be found later on in our upcoming events section.

In addition, SAS is honored to welcome Giada Arney at our general meeting. Dr. Arney is a Research Space Scientist in the Planetary Systems Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, with interests in planetary atmospheres, photochemistry, planetary habitability, spectra, terrestrial solar system worlds, exoplanets, and astrobiology. She currently serves as one of two Deputy PIs of the DAVINCI+ Discovery mission concept. Previously, she led the Science Support Analysis Team for the LUVOIR astrophysics flagship mission concept.

Our  Stargazing in Seattle this month features where to see Mars in addition to two red giant stars. Stay tuned for future private star parties as beautiful weather rolls into the Pacific Northwest.

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, April 13th,
7:00 PM -9:00 PM:
Astrophotography Special Interest Group Meeting 

Wednesday, April 28th,
6:00 PM - 8:30 PM:
April General Meeting featuring Dr. Giada Arney

Thursday, April 29th,
6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
New Member & Volunteer Info Session

Stargazing in Seattle

Bob Mulford

Mars, the only major planet in the evening sky this month, is visible high in the West on clear nights after sunset. Last month, Mars was near the star Aldebaran but has moved nearly 20 degrees east along the ecliptic over the past few weeks, toward the stars of the constellation Gemini. Currently, Mars forms an equilateral triangle with two red giant stars. One is Aldebaran (which marks the eye of the bull in Taurus). The other is Betelgeuse (one of Orion’s shoulders). Mars glows with a similar red color as these two stars, but for a different reason. Mars appears red because it reflects sunlight from the red rocks that form its surface. Betelgeuse and Aldebaran shine because they are glowing balls of hot, mostly hydrogen gas. A star’s color is determined by how hot this gas is. Most of the stars we see in the sky are very hot and radiate white or even blue-white light. Red giant stars like Aldebaran and Betelgeuse, however, are nearing the end of their life as a main sequence star. They have become larger (and brighter) but their surface is cooler and glows with a soft red color, like an ember in a fireplace. Star colors are subtle but most of the other bright stars in Orion are hot blue-white class O stars (the hottest class) or white class B (almost as hot), and provide a good color contrast to these two red giant stars.
On the evenings of April 16 and 17, Mars will be joined by a crescent moon, as Luna makes her monthly trip around the Earth. The best time to look is toward the west in the evening, shortly after it gets dark.

Evening Sky looking West from Seattle on April 16, about 9 PM.

Stargazing in Seattle highlights interesting astronomical events that can be seen without optical aid, simply by looking up at the sky. Graphics were produced with the open source planetarium program Stellarium (

Member Spotlight

Darryn Lavery, SAS Member

Name: Darryn Lavery
Member Since: October 2014
Hobbies: All types of photography in particular astro photography ( I enjoy programming – but regret I don’t have enough to work on tooling ( Other than we like traveling, and look forward to eating out again at Seattle restaurants.
Favorite Space Movie, Show, or Character: One of my favorite was Blakes 7 – one of the first dystopian sci fi series and tourist film for the mining quarries of England.  Despite the late 70s / early 80s UK production, story-telling feels fresh even though most of the sets appeared to be quarries in England!
Favorite space fact: Oceans may be more common than we thought. Pluto was recently relegated as a Dwarf planet and is now perhaps the most curious planet of all. A small planet at the remote fringe of our solar system but still thermally active and with the possibility a sub-surface ocean!
Favorite space related memory: Our first (and only) viewing of the Aurora north of Ellensburg. We were filled with excitement but also uncertainty. As we were taking photos, we could hear the sound of a large animal walking over the loose rocks below us. We hoped it was not a bear. Our dog, who would not a miss an opportunity to run around, was planted in the back of the car, confirming that there was something out there and not just in the sky.
Hopes & Goals: I am helping the Astro Society by collating a list of dark sky sites for our members. Hoping for new members to get a quick positive telescope observing experience.

Want to nominate someone for the next member spotlight?
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