2018-04-01 / Stargazing

Paschal Moon welcomes Easter

For April 2018, the moon will be full moon. The Paschal Moon, following the Vernal Equinox, is on March 31, and it sets the following Sunday, April 1, which is the date for Easter this year. On April 3, the waning gibbous moon is four degrees north of Jupiter in the morning sky.

The third quarter moon is April 7, and it lies two degrees north of Saturn and three degrees north of Mars.

The new moon is on April 15. The thin crescent moon lies five degrees south of brilliant Venus at dusk on April 17. Look for earthshine lighting up the rest of the lunar disk, a great photo op.

The moon is first quarter on April 22, and it will be well placed for smartphone photos at the EAAA Pavilion Gazes on Pensacola Beach on April 20-21. Come out and join us as our 2018 beach gazes begin, and be sure to bring along your smartphone.

The moon is full as the Strawberry Moon on April 29; the second full moon of April also makes this a “blue moon.” As April ends, the moon passes four degrees north of bright Jupiter, both rising about an hour after sunset in the east.

This photo of the waxing gibbous moon by Pensacola State and EAAA student member Kristen Hodge is typical of what you can expect to get with your phone and our scopes at the EAAA Pavilion Gazes on Pensacola Beach April 20-21. This photo of the waxing gibbous moon by Pensacola State and EAAA student member Kristen Hodge is typical of what you can expect to get with your phone and our scopes at the EAAA Pavilion Gazes on Pensacola Beach April 20-21. Mercury is too close to the sun for easy observing this month, but Venus dominates the early evening sky for the rest of this year. It climbs farther east of the sun each evening. It passes south of the Pleiades star cluster on April 17, with the crescent moon just south of Venus – a great photo op about an hour after sunset. At month’s end, it sits between the cluster and the bright star Aldeberan in Taurus.

Mars is in the morning sky and moves past Saturn in Sagittarius. It passes 1.3 degrees south of the ringed planet on April 2. It gets brighter, bigger and closer to earth as we overtake it this summer, with the closest approach at opposition on July 27.

This will be our best views of the Red Planet since the famously close opposition of August 2003. After opposition, Mars will be in the evening sky for the rest of 2018, but we have already overtaken it and are pulling away from it, making it become smaller and fainter in our scopes for the rest of the year.

Jupiter reaches opposition on May 8, so it will be rising right after sunset in Libra this April. If you use a small telescope, its four largest Galilean moons are visible in a row around its equator. Your smartphone will be able to capture these moons and some disk detail with our scopes.

Saturn rises in the southeast about midnight as April begins, reaching opposition on June 27. The ringed wonder is at its best in the east in Sagittarius, with brighter red Mars to the lower left of it and the gibbous moon on April 7, a nice photo op.

When viewed with a telescope, the rings are open 27 degrees and double the planet’s disk brightness. Note the big moon Titan and several smaller moons fall on either side of the most beautiful telescopic sight in the sky.

Yellow Capella, a giant star the same temperature and color as our much smaller sun, dominates the northwestern sky. It is part of the pentagon on stars making up Auriga, the Charioteer (think Ben Hur). Several nice binocular Messier open clusters are found in the winter milky way here.

East of Auriga the twins, Castor and Pollux, highlight the Gemini. South of Gemini, Orion is the most familiar winter constellation, dominating the Southern sky at dusk.

The reddish supergiant Betelguese marks his eastern shoulder, while blue-white supergiant Rigel stands opposite on his west knee. Just south of the belt, hanging like a sword downward, is M-42, the Great Nebula of Orion, an outstanding binocular and telescopic stellar nursery. The bright diamond of four stars that lights it up is the trapezium cluster, one of the finest sights in a telescope.

Download the

April Evening Sky Map at skymaps.com for a list of the best objects to view with the naked eye, binoculars and scopes.


by the Escambia Amateur Astronomers begin at sunset and run ‘til 10 p.m.

Battery Worth on Ft. Pickens Picnic Area Friday V April 13th

* The dark sky sessions will allow observers to enjoy the beauty of the night sky, the Milky Way and many more galaxies beyond our own.

Pensacola Beach Gulfside Pavillion Friday V April 20th & Saturday V April 21st

* This year’s best look at Jupiter

Big Lagoon State Park Saturday V April 7th

(near the observation tower)

For more information on the Escambia Amateur Astronomers, find us on Facebook at “Escambia Amateur Astronomers,” visit our website at www.eaaa.net or call our sponsor, Lauren Rogers at Pensacola State at (850) 484-1155 or lrogers@pensacolastate.edu.

Join them on Facebook at

Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association.

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