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Astronomical Events for April

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Evening Planets:

Jupiter is very high up in the South as evening twilight fades. As the month progresses, the planet dims down a tad. Despite the slight dimming, Jupiter is still the brightest evening planet. The planet is in very favorable position for early evening observations.

Mars rises in the ESE as the evening twilight fades. The planet is visible all night and is at its brightest for the last 5 years. The planet will be closest to the Earth on 14 April 2014. This isn't the best or closest approach of Mars to the Earth. Mars doesn't get that high in the sky either.

Saturn rises late in the evening in the SE. Each evening the planet will rise a bit earlier. Saturn is slowly getting into position for its summer apparition. The planet is in the Constellation of Libra and doesn't get that high in the sky. 

Morning Planets:

Venus manages to rise just before Dawn breaks in the ESE during the 1st few days of April. The planet dims down some as the month progresses. This is the last month for Venus fair morning appearance. Each morning, Venus rises a bit later while the Dawn's light appears earlier. By the end of the month, Venus will be rising well after Dawn breaks. Venus is the brightest morning planet.

Mercury is still technically a morning planet. The planet is so close to the glow of Sunrise that it will be next to impossible to be seen.

3 Apr Moon Occultates Hyades Star Cluster, Late Evening

6 Apr 1st Quarter Moon lower left of Jupiter, Evening

15 Apr Total Lunar Eclipse, Pre-Dawn

22 Apr Lyrid Meteor Shower

25 Apr Crescent Moon upper right of Venus, Dawn

Moon Occultates the Hyades:

On the late evening of the 3rd April, the Crescent Moon will cover or occultate certain stars in the Hyades Star Custer (C41). The Moon will slow cover the Stars Delta One and Delta Two Tauri from 10 pm EDT till Moonset which is around 11:30 pm EDT. Since the stars will be first covered by the dark edge of the Moon, these events should be visible to the unaided eye. Hand held binoculars will definitely show the occultation if the sky is clear. 

Total Lunar Eclipse:

 In the early Pre-Dawn hours of Tuesday, 15 April, the Moon will have a Total Lunar Eclipse. A Total Lunar Eclipse is when the Moon passes through the Umbra or the darkest inner part of the Earth Shadow.

Total Lunar Eclipse Time Table: 15 April 2014

Partial Eclipse Begins 01:58 am EDT

Total Eclipse Begins 03:07 am EDT

Mid Eclipse 03:46 am EDT

Total Eclipse Ends 04:25 am EDT

Partial Eclipse Ends 05:33 am EDT

Moonset will be near the Partial Eclipse end time, depending on your horizon. Total Lunar Eclipse will last about 1 hour and 18 minutes. Since the Moon is passing through the darkest part of the Earth's shadow; Mid-Eclipse is predicted to be a dark red color. The Lunar Eclipse is easily visible to the unaided eye. Binoculars and telescopes will enhance the view. Some sky watchers think that giant binoculars bring out the eclipse color the best. The bright star Spica will be below the eclipsed Moon.

It's been a while since we had a Total Lunar Eclipse in our area. The timing of this eclipse is not convenient for most people's schedule. Yet this spectacular event may be well worth a look.

Lyrid Meteor Shower:

 The weak Lyrid Meteor Shower is predicted to peak in the Pre-Dawn hours of the morning of the 22nd of April. This weak meteor shower will be mostly washed out by the Last Quarter Moon. This weak meteor shower may produce 10 short faint meteors per hour. This is not a good showing of the weak Lyrid Meteor Shower. 

Mars

 The Planet Mars will be fairly close to the Earth on 14 April, 2014. This approach is not the best for the planet watchers. Mars will be in the Constellation of Virgo and doesn't get that high in the sky. Thus views of the planet could easily be affected by atmospheric conditions such as haze, fog, mists, etc…

When viewed through a telescope, Mars apparent size is not that that large, so it's hard to see surface details. Mars is the only planet in the Solar System that we have a reasonable view of large surface features. A good planetary telescope will show Mars North Polar Cap tilted toward Earth and a few of its largest surface areas. Through the remainder of our short observing window for Mars (until the end of May 2014), the North Polar Cap will continue to shrink due to the "Martian Summer". We will need to wait until 2018 for a good close approach of Mars. When Mars has a good close approach to Earth, much more surface details can be seen in a telescope.

Written by

Gary T. Nowak

Vermont Astronomical Society

 
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