April Skies 2020
Venus is the sole bright evening planet that dominates the Western sky. The planet is easily visible in the West about ½ hour after Sunset. The planet will lose a bit of altitude as the month progresses but has a noticeable gain in brightness. The brilliant planet has a close approach to the Pleiades Star Cluster on 3 April. After that the planet will drift away from the Pleaides and will hold its relative position until it reaches its greatest brightness of this evening showing on 27 April. The planet will hold its greatest brightness until the end of the month. This is the last month of Venus fine evening showing. Next month will have some drastic changes for Venus.
Jupiter rises before Dawn breaks in the SE. The planet doesn’t get that high in the SE sky before Dawn light breaks. The planet has a slight increase in brightness as the month progresses.
Saturn rises about ½ hour after Jupiter. Saturn follows Jupiter across the Dawn skies.
Mars follows Saturn and rises a few minutes after Saturn. The planet brightens a bit as the month progresses. At the first of the month; Mars is somewhat near Saturn. Mars slowly moves away from Saturn in an Eastward direction across the sky during the month. By the end of the month, Mars rises about 1 ½ hours after Saturn. All during the month of April, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars form a rough line in the Dawn skies.
1 Apr 1st Quarter Moon, Dusk
3 Apr Venus, Pleiades Conjunction, Dusk
7 Apr Full Super Moon
14 Apr Last Quarter Moon right of Jupiter, Dawn
15 Apr Moon below Saturn, Dawn
16 Apr Moon lower left of Mars, Dawn
21-22 Apr Lyrid Meteor Shower
26 Apr Crescent Moon left of Venus, Dusk
27 Apr Venus at greatest brilliance, Dusk
Venus - Pleiades Conjunction:
On Friday evening, 3 April, the Planet Venus will have a very close approach to the star cluster, the Pleiades (M45). This is the closest approach of Venus to the Pleiades since 3 April, 2012. The brilliant planet will appear just to the left of the star cluster. As darkness falls, some of the bright Pleiades stars should be visible to the unaided eye. Hand held binoculars will greatly enhance the view of this spectacular conjunction. In fact, binoculars will probably give the best views of this event around 9 pm. This is the best Venus star cluster conjunction of the year. This event is very favorable for our viewing area. In case the 3rd is cloudy; you can still see Venus very close to the Pleiades a day before or a day after this event.
Not to be outdone by Venus; the Moons of April put on a fine show. On 1 April, the 1st Quarter Moon puts on its best appearance of the year. This 1st Quarter Moon is at its highest altitude of the year and is excellent position for evening observations with binoculars and telescopes.
Six days later the Full Moon puts on a fine show on 7 April... This Full Moon is the best of the year so it may be considered “the Super Moon of the Year”. Both April’s moons are slightly bigger and brighter than its March counter parts. Both Moons are very favorable for our area. After these April’s moons; the next set of monthly moons will slowly get lower in altitude and slightly smaller in appearance. Just wait until October when you will see the Moons at their worst position of the year.
Lyrid Meteor Shower:
On the night of 21 -22 April; the Lyrid Meteor Shower will happen. This weak meteor shower will have no Moon to deal with which would have spoiled the view. About 8 meteors per hour are predicted to be seen in the evening sky. The Pre – Dawn sky will fare better with a prediction of about 15 meteors per hour. This weak meteor shower is favorable for our viewing area.
On Monday evening, 27 April, Venus will reach her greatest brilliancy for this evening showing. The planet will be a spectacular bright object against the dark Western sky. On this date, Venus will even outshine the crescent Moon which is to far upper left of Venus. This is a favorable showing of Venus at greatest brilliancy for our area. This is the best showing of Venus in 8 years. Planet watchers with telescopes or even powerful giant binoculars will see Venus in her brilliant crescent shape. Enjoy this view of brilliant Venus in the evening sky. Next month Venus will be leaving our evening skies.
Gary T. Nowak
Vermont Astronomical Society