Editor’s Note: We are looking up as HMNS Astronomer James Wooten explains the sky happenings for the month of April and a New Moon that helps mark the ending of the celebration of Ramadan.
Venus is even higher in the evening sky this month. It is slightly higher in the west at dusk each evening.
Mars is now high in the west at dusk. As Earth continues to pull away from Mars, Mars is a little dimmer each evening. In April 2023, though, Mars still outshines most of the stars at night.
Mercury briefly enters the evening sky from about April 1-20. Face west northwest at dusk and draw a line from Venus down towards the fading glow where the Sun set. The brightest point along this path is Mercury.
Saturn is in the morning sky this month; face east southeast just before dawn.
Jupiter is behind the Sun and out of sight this month. It is directly in line with the Sun on April 11.
April is the last month to see the full set of brilliant winter stars which now fill the western evening sky. Dazzling Orion is in the southwest at dusk. His three-starred belt is halfway between reddish Betelgeuse and bluish Rigel. Orion’s belt points rightward to Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. 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 left. Forming a triangle with Sirius and Betelgeuse is Procyon, the Little Dog Star.
Joining the winter stars are stars of spring rising in the east. Ursa Major, the Great Bear, which includes the Big Dipper, is high above the North Star on spring evenings. Extend the Big Dipper’s handle to ‘Arc to Arcturus’ and then ‘speed on to Spica’. Look for Leo, the Lion high in the sky at dusk. There are fewer bright stars in this direction because of where the plane of our galaxy is in the sky. The area of sky between Gemini and Taurus and over Orion’s head is the galactic anticenter, which means that we face directly away from the galactic center when we look in this direction. Those bright winter stars setting in the west are the stars in our galactic arm, right behind the Sun. On the other hand, if you look at the sky between Ursa Major, Leo, Virgo, and Boötes, you’re looking straight up out of the galactic plane, towards the galactic pole. There are fewer bright stars in this direction.
Moon Phases in April 2023
Full April 5, 11:34 p.m.
Last Quarter April 13, 4:11 a.m.
New April 19, 11:12 p.m.
1st Quarter April 27, 4:20 p.m.
The New Moon of April 19 blocks the Sun, causing an eclipse. However, the Moon’s shadow passes over Indonesia and Western Australia (where it will be April 20), never coming near America. This same New Moon marks the end of Ramadan. Muslims celebrate Eid-al-Fitr when the slender crescent becomes visible in the evening.
Our George Observatory is now open every Saturday night for observing! Purchase tickets in advance on our website.
Want more sky happenings? Take a look back at what you may have missed in March.