The Night Skies for March and April

All the visible planets are now in the evening sky and by April all will be easily visible -- approaching a major conjunction (all the planets visible in approximately the same part of the sky) later in the springtime and all moving towards the glare of the sun by the fall. Then back into the morning sky.

Above: The moon and Venus -- you will see them like this by late April! Issues Photo

Over the new few weeks Venus will become easier to see low in the west for an hour after sunset, moving higher up in the sky every day and growing to the brightest star-like object in the sky (the moon and sun are, of course, considerably brighter). Venus is approaching half phase and eventually greatest elongation (the highest it will be seen in the western sky).

Mars is moving down towards the glare of the sun and diminishing in brightness, now looking much like a common, dull, orange star. Through a telescope not much of a disk is seen as Mars is now almost 200 million miles away and moving farther from us on a daily basis.

Saturn is also moving further away and growing dimmer day by day as it, too, starts to head towards Venus and Mars in the western sky. Although through the telescope it basically looks the same no matter the distance.

Jupiter visually with the unaided eye or even through a telescope always looks about the same as it too moves further towards the west having just come out of opposition (closest point to the Earth) over the New Year holiday season.

When all of these planets, along with the crescent moon, line up within the same general position it makes for a spectacular site and a good object to the photographers out there. All you need is any type of color film and a camera capable of taking a few seconds of time exposure (keeping the shutter open for a duration of time). Many digital cameras can also do this feat

Lyrids meteor are at their maximum numbers in the late night and early morning skies on April 21-22 between Sunday night and Monday Morning. The Lyrids are a rather common meteor show with about 20 meteors per hour seen at peak in darkened skies and a few per hours in the brightly lighted cities.


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