Seeing Stars with James Wooten: April 2013

April 2, 2013

Jupiter is now lower in the west at dusk. Face west at dusk and look for the brightest thing there (unless the Moon is also there), as Jupiter outshines all stars we ever see at night.

Saturn shifts from morning to evening sky this month. It rises at about 9:45 p.m. on April 1 and is in the south-southwest by dawn. On April 28, Earth passes between the Sun and Saturn, causing Saturn to rise at dusk and set at dawn. In this alignment, called opposition, Saturn is up literally all night long.

Sky Map April 2013

Venus and Mars are still out of sight on the far side of the Sun this month.  Mars is behind the Sun (in conjunction with the Sun) on April 17.

Brilliant winter stars shift toward the west during April. Dazzling Orion is in the southwest at dusk. His three-starred belt is halfway between reddish Betelgeuse and bluish Rigel.  Orion’s belt points northward to Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. This winter and spring the Bull also contains Jupiter. To Orion’s upper left are the twin stars Castor and Pollux, marking the heads of Gemini, the Twins. You can find Sirius, the brightest star we ever see at night, by drawing a line from Orion’s belt towards the south.  To Orion’s left, forming a triangle with Sirius and Betelgeuse, is Procyon, the Little Dog Star.

Meanwhile, the stars of spring are high in the east and overhead. Look for Leo, the Lion, high in the east at dusk.  Also, extend the Big Dipper’s handle to ‘Arc to Arcturus’ and then ‘speed on to Spica’ — these stars are in the east.

Moon Phases in April 2013:

Last Quarter                  April 2, 11:38 pm
New                               April 10, 4:38 am
1st Quarter                    April 18, 7:31 am
Full                                April 25, 2:59 pm

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.

Saturday, April 13, is a special “Observe the Planets” night at the George. Come join us in observing Jupiter and Saturn!

To enjoy the stars in any weather from the comfort of the HMNS Planetarium, click here for a full schedule.

Authored By James Wooten

James is the Planetarium Astronomer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. He teaches students every school morning in the planetarium, and also answers astronomy questions from the public.

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