April Skies

The planets are still giving us a fine show this month. Nothing quite as spectacular as the conjunction of the Moon, Jupiter and Venus but there is still time to get great views of Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter this month.

Venus is still the brightest object in the sky but will be slowly sinking toward the west as the month progresses. Saturn reaches opposition on the 15th and will visible all month. This month is a great time to get that young child or grandchild interested in astronomy with a view of Saturn and its magnificent rings through a small telescope.

Mars is hanging out in Leo most of the month and will be very visible as a pale pink orb high in the east after sunset. Near the end of the month a waxing gibbous moon is near Mars, just south of Regulus, brightest star in Leo.

The moon hangs out near a couple of planets this month. On the 22nd, look for the thin crescent moon about three degrees above Jupiter. On the evenings of the 24th and 25th, the moon is within 12 degrees of Venus.

Of all the constellations, the Big Dipper (actually a part of Ursa Major) is large and obvious most of the year. From its location near the celestial pole (close to Polaris – the north star) it does an annual 360; dipping below the horizon in the winter and then up high in the sky in warmer months. From really dark skies look for the Little Dipper (a portion of the constellation Draco) with Polaris at the end of its ‘handle’. Follow the outer edge stars of the big dipper’s bowl down to Polaris.

The Lyrid meteor shower peaks on the evening of the 21st and morning of the 22nd. With the Moon near new, it should be a good show from a dark location with 20 or so meteors per hour at peak. Best time to view will be after midnight as the showers ‘radiant’ – the constellation Lyra – sets in the west.

Be sure to leave questions or comments on the blog. If you got here from the Dogstar Observatory web site, just click on the title to take you to the blog where you can register and then post comments or questions. Or just follow this link.

Thats all for this month. Remember to turn off your outside lights and go out and enjoy the night skies of Balsam Mountain Preserve.

Jim Stratigos

Resident Astronomer


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