April belongs to Jupiter
For April, the Moon will be first quarter on April 3. The waxing gibbous moon passes two degrees north of Jupiter on April 10. The Full Moon, the Paschal Moon following the Vernal Equinox, is on April 12, and sets the following Sunday as the date for Easter this year. On Easter morning, the Waning gibbous moon is three degrees north of Saturn in the morning sky. The third quarter moon is April 19, and the waning crescent moon passes five degrees south of brilliant Venus in the dawn sky on April 23. The moon is new on April 26, only four more new moons until totality on August 21! The waxing crescent moon passes six degrees south of Mars on April 29.
Also available is wonderful video exploring the April sky, available from the Hubble Space Telescope website at: http:// hubblesite.org/explore_ astronomy/ tonights_ sky/.
Mercury is well-placed for evening viewing as April begins, reaching greatest eastern elongation of 19 degrees east of the Sun on April 1. But by the next week, it retrogrades into the sun’s glare. Venus passed between us and the Sun on March 25, and quickly emerges into the dawn sky in early April. It reaches greatest brilliancy in the dawn at month’s end. It appears as a very thin crescent in early April, but as it gets farther west of the Sun each morning, it shrinks in size but appears more fully lit. Mars is about to be lost in the Sun’s glare, setting earlier in the SW each evening.
April belongs to Jupiter. It reaches opposition on April 7, with the bright star Spica in Virgo to the lower left of it. With a small telescope, its four largest Galilean moons are visible in a row around its equator.
Saturn rises in the SE about midnight as April begins, reaching opposition on June 15. The ringed wonder is at its best in the east, north of bright red Antares in Scorpius, with brighter red Mars to the upper right of them; the most beautiful object in the sky. This year, Saturn is at summer solstice, with the rings most open. Note the big moon Titan and several smaller moons fall on either side of the most beautiful telescopic sight in the sky.
To the northeast, look for the Big Dipper rising, with the top two stars of the bowl, the pointers, giving you a line to find Polaris, the Pole Star. Look for Mizar-Alcor, a nice naked-eye double-star, in the bend of the big dipper’s handle. Now take the curved handle of the Big Dipper, and follow the arc SE to bright orange Arcturus, the brightest star of the spring sky. Recent studies of its motion link it to the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy, a companion of our Milky Way being tidally disrupted and spilling its stars above and below the plane of the Milky Way; much like dust falling away from a decomposing comet nucleus. So this brightest star of Bootes the Bear Driver is apparently a refugee from another galaxy!
Spike south to Spica, the bluewhite gem in Virgo rising in the SE. To the southwest of Spica is the four-sided Crow, Corvus. To the ancient Greeks, Spica was associated with Persephone, daughter of Ceres, goddess of the harvest. She was abducted by her suitor Pluto, carried down to Hades (going to Hell for a honeymoon!). When Jupiter worked out a compromise between the newlyweds and the angry mother-in-law, the agreement dictated Persephone come back to the earth’s surface for six months of the year, Mama Ceres was placated and the crops could again grow. As you see Spica rising in the SE, it is time to “plant your peas;” and six months from now, when Spica again disappears in the sun’s glare in the SW, you need to “get your corn in the crib.”
April Evening Sky Map at skymaps.com for a list of the best objects to view with the naked eye, binoculars & scopes
by the Escambia Amateur Astronomers begin at sunset
Pensacola Beach Gulfside Pavillion Friday V March 31st
Big Lagoon State Park Saturday V April 15th
East parking lot near observation tower.
Battery Worth on Ft. Pickens Friday V April 21st
We host our last Sky Interpretation Session of our 41th year working with the National Park Service. Remember to come early, for the park gates close at sunset.
For more information on the Escambia Amateur Astronomers visit www.eaaa.net or call Dr. Wayne Wooten in the Physical Sciences
Department of Pensacola State College at
(850) 484-1152, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Join them on Facebook at Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association.