•Night Sky Events. (Held at arm’s length, the width of your fist is 10 degrees and the width of your index finger is 1 degree. The width of a full Moon is ½ degree.)
* April 3
: The Moon is new.
* April 3
: Saturn is at opposition – opposite the Sun from Earth – when it rises at sunset, is up all night, and sets at sunrise; it is also at its nearest and brightest, although at its distance of nearly a billion miles, the difference isn’t great. This year Saturn’s rings are far more open and visible compared to last year when they were nearly edge on and difficult to see.
* April 6
: Jupiter is in conjunction with (behind) the Sun and moving into the morning sky.
* April 6
evening: The crescent Moon is 5 degrees below the Pleiades star cluster in the west, and the next night is 7 degrees above it.
* April 9
: Mercury is passing between the Sun and Earth (called inferior conjunction) and moving into the morning sky.
* April 11
evening: The Moon is at 1
* April 16
evening: The Moon is 8 degrees to the lower right of Saturn.
* April 17:
The full Moon is called Egg Moon, Grass Moon, and Easter Moon.
* April 22
morning: The Lyrid meteor shower peaks but the waning gibbous Moon makes this an unfavorable year for seeing many meteors.
* April 23
morning: Venus is two moonwidths below Uranus at dusk but you’ll need binoculars to see faint Uranus.
* April 24
morning: The Moon is at 3
th St., Waco, TX, 76707.
* April 30
morning: The crescent Moon is 6 degrees above Venus low in the east at dawn.
[The Sun, Moon and planets rise in the east and set in the west due to Earth’s west-to-east rotation on its axis.]
(east), Mercury (low in the east by month’s end); Saturn (west)
begins April barely visible low in the west at dusk, is soon lost in the Sun’s glare as it passes between Earth and Sun April 9, and then emerges low in the east at dawn by month’s end.
begins April as the brilliant "morning star" in the east but by month’s end begins sliding ever nearer the rising Sun.
will be hidden in the Sun’s glare until summer.
spends the month hidden in the Sun’s glare before emerging in the morning sky in May.
is now up all night.
* April 25, 1990:
The Hubble Space Telescope was deployed by Space Shuttle Discovery astronauts. Since its original flawed optics were corrected in 1993, it has continued to dazzle humanity with its incomparable images of the cosmos.
* April 12, 1961:
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, made his historic 108 minute orbital flight around Earth in the spacecraft Vostok 1. Tragically he died in a 1968 training flight preparing for another space mission.
It’s only 13 years until the April 8, 2024, total eclipse of the Sun passes directly a line from Central Texas to Maine. This will be an event of a lifetime so make your plans early.
Constellation of the Month.
Prominent in the early evenings of April is Leo, the Lion, high in the south. With imagination one can make out a lion facing to the right. The sickle-shape represents his head; his brightest star, Regulus, is his heart; and the triangle to the left is his rump and tail. No legs are prominent as he is usually portrayed as lying down. Since the ecliptic (the path across the sky of the Sun, Moon, and planets) passes near Regulus, it is frequently visited by members of our solar system. To find Leo, face south in the early evening and look for Regulus six fist-widths (held at arm’s length) above the horizon.
Paul Derrick is an amateur astronomer who lives in Waco. Stargazer appears twice monthly. Paul’s website (www.stargazerpaul.com) contains an archive of past Stargazer columns, a schedule of his upcoming programs, star parties and classes, and other basic stargazing information. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-723-6346, or 918 N. 30
: Venus: Saturn