April 2012 features four visible planets, visible at convenient evening hours!
Venus continues to appear high in the sky each night, outshining everything but the Sun and the Moon. Look for it in the west at dusk.
This is the last month to see Jupiter in evening hours for some time. On the first few nights of April, Jupiter is low in the west — far below Venus. However, Jupiter appears slightly lower in the sky each night until it is lost in the Sun’s glare by month’s end. It outshines all stars we ever see at night, however, so it’s still not hard to find.
Mars has joined Jupiter and Venus as an evening object. Face east at dusk and look for the brightest point of light in that direction. Although not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, Mars still rivals the brightest stars in the night sky. However, Mars fades a little bit each night as Earth pulls away from it (on March 3, Earth passed between Mars and the Sun).
Saturn becomes an evening object this month. On April 15, Earth aligns with the Sun and Saturn, placing Saturn at opposition — just as Mars was last month.
Brilliant winter stars continue to dominate the western sky at dusk. Orion, the Hunter, is almost due south. His two dogs, represented by Sirius and Procyon, are to his left. To Orion’s right is Taurus, the Bull, with Aldebaran as its eye. Gemini, the Twins, are above Orion. Leo, the Lion, is approaching the zenith. In the east, you can use the Big Dipper’s handle to find two bright stars of spring. From the Big Dipper’s handle, arc to Arcturus and speed on to Spica.
Moon Phases in April 2012:
Full April 6, 2:19 p.m.
Last Quarter April 13, 5:50 a.m.
New April 21, 2:19 a.m.
1st Quarter April 29, 4:57 a.m.
Sunday, April 8 is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the first day of spring. Therefore, it’s Easter Sunday.
On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer. If you’re there, listen for my announcement.
To enjoy the stars in any weather from the comfort of the HMNS Planetarium, click here for a full schedule.