It’s a new month and that means there’s a fresh batch of space events to watch out for.
This April we have more action on Mars thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover and the launch of its Ingenuity helicopter. There are also meteor showers, SpaceX launches (that may or may not explode) and plenty of traffic at the International Space Station.
Here are all the space events to look out for in April.
April’s astronomy highlights
NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter
NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars in February with a bunch of nifty toys. One of these is its detachable companion the Ingenuity helicopter.
For weeks the team at NASA have been guiding the Ingenuity through its separation from the rover, which it successfully achieved over the Easter weekend.
According to NASA, the Ingenuity will have its first test flight no earlier than April 11, so hopefully we’ll see it take off sometime this month.
Comings and goings at the ISS
The International Space Station will see plenty of traffic this month.
First up on April 9, the Soyuz MS-18 will take NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov from Kazakhstan to the ISS. They will swap with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov on April 16 who will return on the Soyuz MS-17.
On April 22, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon the Endeavour will launch four new team members to the ISS. JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet will make up the crew along with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur. The spacecraft will take off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
These new team members will take the place of the previous Crew Dragon members, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi. They will return on SpaceX’s Resilience craft on April 28.
That’s a lot of comings and goings at the International space station so if you want to keep track of who’s up there check out this site.
April brings out the Lyrids meteor shower for two whole weeks from April 16-30. For those of us in the southern hemisphere, the best time to catch these meteors is in the early hours of the morning, after the moon has set.
Experts say Lyrid meteors are fast and quite bright but may only be seen every five or 10 minutes, so be patient with them!
Starting on the 19th of April and running through to the end of May you can also spot the Eta Aquariids meteor shower. This annual shower is made up of fragments of the famous 1P/Halley comet. The peak of this shower is in May but starting in April you’ll be able to observe these meteors before sunrise.
Other astronomy dates in April
- April 6: Conjunction of the moon and Saturn
- April 7: Conjunction of the moon and Jupiter
- April 9: Russian rocket Soyuz MS-18 takes three people to the ISS
- April 11: NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter (might) launch
- April 16-30: Lyrid Meteor shower (peak on April 22)
- April 16-17: Three astronauts return to Earth from ISS aboard Russian rocket Soyuz MS-17
- April 19: Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower begins
- April 22: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon ‘Endeavour’ takes astronauts to ISS
- April 26: Full moon
- April 28: SpaceX Crew Dragon ‘Resilience’ will return astronauts from the ISS to Earth
If you want to check out all the rocket launches live just head to Space.com for video links!