Night Skies For March and April

Saturn and Jupiter are now very prominent in the evening sky and seen well into the early morning, which is when you start to find Mars in the East about four hours before sunrise, followed by the very bright Venus, which rises about two hours later.

There is also an early morning comet that might get much brighter and could even move into the evening sky -- Comet C/2002 V1. It is somewhat bright but it has past the closet and brightest point and will soon be leaving the skies. It was best seen in early morning twilight about an hour before sunrise.

Jupiter is heading for opposition, when it is closest the Earth (hundreds of millions of miles away), rising around sunset and setting around sunrise by late April.

Mars will be moving towards the night sky this summer (it technically enters the evening sky around June 20th when it rises before midnight). By fall it should be quite brilliant and heading towards the closest encounter with Earth in ages. The distance of Mars at opposition varies from 33 million miles to about 45 million miles it has an oval orbit. When Mars is this close it becomes the fourth brightest object in the night sky after the Moon, Venus and Jupiter. It starts to rival Jupiter for brilliance at this close a distance!

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By the springtime Venus will be returning to the evening sky (if you’ll remember it is inside the orbit of the Earth so it is never more than half way up either the East or West sky) and will be seen with Saturn and Jupiter over the summer.

The Lyrid meteors are best seen on April 22, 2003 adding about twice to the normal background count. This is not a super spectacular show, but if you are around, outside, without a lot of moon light and clear skies look up and you will easily see a few. The next shower after this comes on May 5-6.

Total Eclipse of the Moon

May 16th around 2 AM GMT (UT) lasting until sunrise (viewers in North America should start checking the evening of the 15th to adjust from UT to your local time). This eclipse occurs late night or early morning in the dark sky, it is safe to watch, easy to see and visible through most of Europe, Greenland, North American, South America and Canada. In this eclipse the Moon enters the shadow cast into space by the Earth and darkens. In some eclipses the moon may go totally dark or be a very dark gray. In other eclipses the moon may look a pale red or orange. This is caused by sunlight filtering through our atmosphere and you never know what you are going to get! Generally winter eclipses are darker and summer eclipses are ruddy orange. This once comes closer to summer.

Phase h m UT
Moon enters umbra 2 02
Moon enters totality 3 13
Middle of eclipse 3 40
Moon leaves totality 4 06
Moon leaves umbra 5 17

Times shown are for England.

There is also an Annular Eclipse of the Sun in May on the 31st starting in late afternoon around 3:45 GMT (Universal Time) or English Time and ending around 4:30. Only the very northern areas of Europe and Canada will see this eclipse well. At totality a bright ring of light will be seen as the Moon is too far from the Earth to totally block the sun, thus this is not called a total eclipse but an annular (or one with a circular light ring).

Partial eclipses will be seen as low as the Middle East, upper Africa, all of Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, India, parts of China and the arctic and the upper most area of Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Iceland.

Virtually none of the eclipse will be seen in North America.

WARNING! You must never look directly at the sun except through approved, glass filters which cut down the rays and remove UV or via an indirect method of reflecting the sun on paper using a "sun scope" type method.


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