Monthly Sky Guide

April's Guide To The Sky

The Planets

With the transition into British Summer Time, the sun now graces the horizon just past 6:00am, with each passing day bringing about a gradual earlier sunrise and later sunset, lengthening the days as April progresses.

Spotting Mercury in April proves challenging as it closely hugs the Sun, gradually ascending into the morning sky and reaching its farthest point from the Sun at the start of May. Similarly, Venus, while present in the morning sky, retreats towards the Sun, making it less visible until it transitions into the evening sky come May.

In the early hours, Mars and Saturn share proximity in the morning sky, but their gradual separation throughout April, coupled with their rise around 5:30am, offers a narrow window for observation. Neptune, nestled amidst Mars, Saturn, and Venus, remains elusive this month, obscured by its dimness and proximity to the rising Sun.

In the evening sky, Jupiter takes center stage, easily visible as the sun sets, while Uranus lurks above it, requiring a telescope for observation. Both planets set around 9:30 pm, providing an opportunity for nighttime sky watchers to catch a glimpse of these distant giants.

Onto the month's events...

April 2024

Tonight, sky gazers are treated to a delightful sight as a 19% waxing Moon graces the space between the constellations Auriga and Taurus. Observers with a keen eye may discern the prominent Mare Crisium, a vast expanse of dried-up lava on the lunar surface. Along the shadow's edge, the cool crater Taruntius may be spotted, peeking out from the darkness. For those equipped with a telescope, the Vallis Rheita, a striking lunar valley, awaits exploration. Situated to the Moon's bottom right, this valley is adorned with craters, and keen observers may even discern a groove or scar-like feature etched into the lunar landscape.

April 2024

Tonight, the Moon finds itself in the vicinity of the star cluster M35, nestled within the constellation Gemini, the twins. Look for it near the twin Castors, marking one of the legs of the celestial figures. Interestingly, M35 is not just one, but two clusters: an open cluster and a globular cluster. With steady hands and a pair of binoculars, observers may be able to discern both clusters, while telescopes offer a clearer view, revealing the distinction between the two.

Exploring this region further, skywatchers may also encounter another cluster known as Collinder 89, situated further up Castor's leg, providing a stunning sight through binoculars.

For a closer look at Castor, the head of the celestial twins, aim your telescope at this star and discover its binary nature. Castor is actually a double star system, comprised of six stars orbiting a common center of mass. While only two of these stars are visible from our vantage point on Earth, the intricate dance of these stellar companions adds to the celestial spectacle.

April 2024

Take a moment to observe the Moon, where a couple of notable craters await your attention. Look towards the top of the Moon's shadow, and you'll likely spot prominent features such as Aristotles and Eudoxus. If you're fortunate, you might even catch a glimpse of the Alpine Valley to their left, though its visibility may vary depending on the time of your observation.

April 2024

As the Moon continues its journey, it now positions itself above another captivating celestial object: the Beehive Cluster in Cancer, the crab. Astronomers often hold this cluster in high regard for its abundance of brightly colored stars, reminiscent of bees buzzing around a hive. Viewing the Beehive Cluster through binoculars offers a delightful experience, and as the Moon moves out of the way later in the month, even more stars become visible, enhancing the spectacle.

While exploring this region of the sky, shift your gaze down the crab's left claw, and you'll encounter M67, also known as the Golden Eye Cluster. This open cluster of stars presents a lovely sight for observers.

Turning our attention back to the Moon, keen-eyed viewers can spot the Apennine Mountains peeking out of the lunar shadow, accompanied by a host of larger craters scattered across the Moon's middle.

April 2024

Tonight, the Moon finds itself near the sickle-shaped group of stars in Leo, representing the head of the celestial lion. Try spotting it with the naked eye, and if you have a telescope handy, direct your gaze down Leo's body towards his legs. Here, you'll discover a trio of galaxies nestled just below the star Chertan.

For a more extensive galactic exploration, wait until the Moon moves out of the way to fully appreciate another group of galaxies. Look for M105, M96, and M95 positioned just below Leo's belly.

Turning our attention back to the Moon, the Apennine Mountains stand prominently on the lunar surface, accompanied by a deep crater at their end. Additionally, the striking crater Plato commands attention, making it a noteworthy feature impossible to overlook.

April 2024

Tonight, prepare to witness the famous "jeweled handle" phenomenon on the Moon, thanks to the Jura Mountains. This distinctive feature, actually a ridge of a crater formed by impact, creates a striking visual effect as its tips catch the evening sunlight, glistening against the lunar shadow. Keep an eye out for another notable crater nearby known as Copernicus, adding to the celestial spectacle.

April 2024

Direct your gaze towards the same area as yesterday's Jura Mountains on the Moon, and you might just spot the "maiden" gracefully perched upside down on the tip of the mountain that extends into the Mare Imbrium. Interestingly, when observed through a reflector telescope, the maiden appears upright, her hair seemingly flowing across the lunar surface, adding a touch of enchantment to the celestial scene.

April 2024

Jupiter and Uranus are set for a close conjunction, albeit challenging to observe due to their low position in the evening sky, not far from the setting Sun. Starting from the 19th and continuing for a few nights, keen observers can witness Uranus passing Jupiter's right side as the days progress. Keep an eye out for the small dark crater Aristarchus, located on the far left of the Moon, offering a delightful and intriguing sight amidst the celestial dance of the planets.

April 2024

Tonight marks the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower, although it's hindered by the presence of an almost full Moon, potentially limiting the number of meteors visible this year. The meteors radiate just to the right of the constellation Lyra, a small but distinct constellation. To aid in your search, try locating the bright blue star Vega, which is easily spotted through binoculars or a telescope. Look slightly to the right of Vega, towards the constellation Hercules, for the best chance of catching a glimpse of the meteors.

Lyra rises around 9:00pm local time, and the meteor shower is expected to peak around 4:00am. At this time, Lyra will be nicely positioned high in the sky for optimal viewing. While the presence of the Moon may dampen visibility, it's still possible to observe approximately 10-15 meteors per hour during the peak.

April 2024

April's full Moon, affectionately known as the Growing or Pink Moon by the Druids, owes its name to the blossoming of flowers during this time of year. It's said to herald the season of love and conception, prompting reflection on whether we celebrate Valentine's Day a bit too early and should instead take cues from nature, where romance blooms alongside the birds and bees.

In other cultures, this full Moon is also referred to as the Sprouting Grass, Egg, and Fish Moon, each name reflecting the natural phenomena observed during this period.

With the Moon set to rise around 9:20pm, perhaps it's the perfect opportunity for couples to come together, find a tranquil spot with a clear eastern horizon, and witness the Moon's ascent in each other's company, embracing the beauty and romance of the moment.

26th & 27th
April 2024

The Moon is set to rise around midnight, accompanied by the bright red star Antares to its right. This conjunction promises to be a captivating sight to watch as it ascends into the early hours of the morning. With a pair of binoculars, observers can enjoy the spectacle of both the Moon and Antares in view, adding a touch of celestial beauty to the night sky.

April 2024

During daylight hours, take a moment to observe the Moon in the daytime sky, where you may be pleasantly surprised to spot a host of craters casting shadows along its surface. Keep an eye out for the striking silhouette of the Apennine Mountains, creating a long curve leading up to the notable crater Plato. This unique activity offers a fun and rewarding way to appreciate the lunar landscape even in the brightness of day.

Clear skies guys, and remember... there's a billion worlds in your back garden!

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