April Astronomy

Jupiter is dazzling this month, near the star Spica

Jupiter is dazzling this month, near the star Spica

| Category: Skywatch Almanac Astronomy

This April starts with Mercury offering its best views of 2017 during the first week.  Jupiter also reaches its peak, though it will remain in the evening skies through late August.  Saturn appears after midnight to start, but climbs into the late evening at the end of the month, low in the southeast.  Orion’s stars, so familiar over the winter, are sinking into the western twilight.  The spring stars may not dazzle in comparison, yet the Big Dipper is placed high in the northeast, Leo, the Lion champions the southern skies, and Gemini’s Twins settle into the west.

Highlights

1st – Mercury hovers above the western horizon, a bright spark in the twilight, best viewed between 8:00 and 8:15 PM.

7th – Jupiter reaches opposition – directly opposite the Sun in the skies – achieving its greatest brightness, and is in the sky all night long.

22nd – The annual Lyrid Meteor Shower sends an average of 10 meteors per hour across the skies, the waning Crescent Moon should not greatly interfere.

28th – The waxing Crescent Moon appears above the red star Aldebaran, the “eye” of Taurus, the Bull.  To the right of Aldebaran is the red but fainter Mars.

Moon

April’s Full Moon, the Full Pink Moon, heralds the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox—one of the first spring flowers. It is also known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon. (Old Farmers Almanac)

First Quarter: April 3

Full “Pink” Moon: April 11

Last Quarter: April 19

New Moon: April 26

Tags: astronomy, Eye on the Night Sky, Fairbanks Museum, Mark Breen Skywatch