Venus has a large gain in altitude during the month of April. The planet pulls out of the bright twilight in the West and moves higher into darker skies. At the start of the month, Venus sets about 1 hour after Sunset. Each evening, Venus is gaining altitude. By the end of the month, Venus sets 2 hours after Sunset in the West and manages to stay up until evening darkness falls
Jupiter situation improves greatly for its evening sky showing. On 1 April, the planet rises around 11 pm EDT. Each evening, Jupiter is rising earlier. By the end of the month, Jupiter is rising as evening twilight fades. The planet has a slight gain in brightness towards the end of the month. The planet is positioning itself for its fair evening showing which will start next month.
Mars rises in the SSE and is quickly followed by Saturn. Both planets are up by 3 am EDT. Both planets are closest to each other at Dawn on the 2nd of April. After that close approach, Mars will move away from Saturn and continue to move eastward. Both planets have an increase in brightness as the month progresses. Saturn has a tiny increase in brightness which will be hardly noticeable. Mars has a big jump in brightness. Both planets are heading for a summer evening display. For Saturn, it will be a poor display with the planet being the farthest away from the Earth in 30 years. For Mars, this summer showing will be its closest approach to Earth in 15 years.
Mercury is technically a morning planet during the last 2 weeks of April. This morning showing of Mercury is its worst of the year. The planet rises just before Sunrise and will be impossible to see in the bright glow of Sunrise.
2 Apr Saturn – Mars Conjunction, Dawn
5 Apr Moon upper right of Jupiter, Dawn
7 Apr Moon upper right of Saturn, Dawn
17 Apr Thin Crescent Moon left of Venus, Dusk
18 Apr Crescent Moon in Hyades Star Cluster, Dusk
21-22 Apr Lyrids Meteor Shower
22 Apr Special 1st Quarter Moon, Evening
24 Apr Waxing Gibbous Moon left of bright star Regulus, Evening
29 Apr Full Moon next to Jupiter, Late Evening
Moon in Hyades Star Cluster:
On the early evening of Wed, 18 April, the 2 day old Crescent Moon will be in the wide, star cluster of the Hyades. As evening twilight fades, the bright star Aldebaran will just be to the slight upper left of the Crescent Moon. The thin Crescent Moon will be inside the “V” shaped star cluster. This is a very unusual positioning of the Crescent Moon to the star cluster. One should start looking for this arrangement about 1 hour after Sunset. Once it gets dark enough, the star cluster members should be easily visible to the unaided eye. Hand held binoculars will help enhance the view of this rare positioning of the Crescent Moon. This event is favorable for our viewing area.
Lyrids Meteor Shower:
The weak Lyrids Meteor Shower will happen on the night of 21-22 April. The evening display of this weak meteor shower will be spoiled by the Special 1st Quarter Moon. After the Moon sets around 1 am EDT on the morning of the 22nd, about 10 meteors per hour are predicted until Dawn breaks. This weak meteor shower is not expected to produce any dramatic displays.
April’s Special 1st Quarter Moon:
In the evening hours of Sunday, 22nd April, a special 1st Quarter Moon will grace the evening sky. This 1st Quarter Moon just misses being at its closest position to Earth by less than 2 days. So the resulting 1st Quarter Moon is a tad bigger and brighter than last month’s Special 1st Quarter Moon. This April’s special 1st Quarter Moon is slightly lower in the sky than the March one. The April 1st Quarter Moon is just below the star cluster M44 (Beehive Cluster). Hand held binoculars will help show the star cluster while a good planetary telescope will reveal the wonders of the Lunar Surface. This special April 1st Quarter Moon is very favorable for our viewing area.
Gary T. Nowak
Vermont Astronomical Society