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Astronomy

April Skies

Evening Planets:

Although there will be 2 other planets joining Mars in the early evening Dusk sky; realistically Mars is still the only bright, easy to see planet in the evening sky. Mars is up the West as evening darkness falls. The planet manages to hold on to its relative altitude all month long. However, Mars still can’t hold on to its brightness and the planet will continue to fade.

This month, Venus makes the switch into the evening sky. The planet will be in a terrible position for the whole month and will be extremely low on the WNW horizon. The planet will be too close to the Sun for easy viewing all month long.

Mercury shares the same fate as Venus. The planet switches into the evening sky during the 3rd week of April. The planet will be in an extremely low position on the WNW horizon. The planet will also be too close to the Sun for easy viewing all month long. With both planets (Venus and Mercury) being very hard to see; that is why Mars is still considered the only bright, easy to see planet of the evening sky.

Morning Planets:

Saturn is the first of the two bright morning planets to rise. The planet rises approximately 3 hours before Sunrise in the SE. The planet manages to gain some altitude before the bright glow of Dawn overtakes the planet.

Jupiter follows Saturn and rises about ½ hour later than Saturn. Both planets are in the same general area of the sky. However, each morning Jupiter is slowly moving away from Saturn and is heading Eastward. Oddly enough both planets (Saturn and Jupiter) stay at the same relative brightness all month long.

5 Apr Moon, Saturn and Jupiter form a rough line, Dawn

6 – 7 Apr Crescent Moon, Saturn and Jupiter form a rough triangle, Dawn

15 April Crescent Moon left of bright star Aldebaran, Dusk

16 Apr Crescent Moon below Mars, Dusk

17 Apr Crescent Moon above Mars, Dusk

19 Apr Moon and bright stars Castor and Pollux form a rough line, Dusk

21-22 Apr Lyrids Meteor Shower; Moon near bright star Regulus, Evening

26 Apr Full Moon near bright star Spica, Evening

29 Apr Waning Gibbous Moon just above bright star Antares, Dawn

Lyrids Meteor Shower:

On the night of 21 -22 April; the weak Lyrids Meteor Shower will happen. Unfortunately, all of the evening viewing and virtually all of the Pre-Dawn viewing of these meteors will be spoiled by the Waxing Gibbous Moon. The Moon will set around 04:00 am EDST on the morning of the 22nd. After the Moon sets, there will be very little time to observe this meteor shower before Dawn breaks and spoils the view. Dawn will break about 15 minutes after the Moon set and by 04:30 am, the light of Dawn will be bright enough to interfere with observing meteors. This weak meteor shower is not favorable at all for our observing area.

April’s Favorable Thick Crescent Moon:

To some sky watchers, seeing a thick Crescent Moon in the evening sky is an aesthetically pleasing view. This month offers the best positioned thick Crescent Moon (5 days old) in the evening sky for the year. On 16 April, the Sun will set around 07:30 pm and the Moon should be ready for observation by 08:00 pm. This thick Crescent Moon can be enjoyed by the unaided eye as well as with telescopes and binoculars. This Crescent Moon will be up in the WNW sky until just before midnight when it sets. The dull Planet Mars will be above the Crescent Moon to add some color to the pleasing view.

Gary T. Nowak

Vermont Astronomical Society