Night Skies for March and April 2005

This month the very bright Jupiter (pictured left through a telescope) is approaching opposition and rises in the East around sunset, setting around dawn in the west. It is prominent for viewing from about 8 at night ‘til an hour before sunrise.

Venus (pictured right in the evening sky) is starting to come into the evening sky just after sunset and by the end of April should be shinning brilliantly in the west for two hours after sunset.

Saturn (pictured right through a telescope) is now high in the evening sky at sunset and setting around midnight as it moves closer and closer to the sun as summer approaches.

Mars is now readily visible in the morning about two or three hours before sunrise as a somewhat bright orange star in the East. Near Mars is the very hard to see Neptune. You need to be out in the clear skies of the country with no lights and have a rather large size telescope (6” or better) to find and see Neptune, which is a very dim, very small looking dot even in a telescope.

Near the end of April (the 22nd is the best morning to see them) the Lyrid meteor show occurs, which is a decent but not overly spectacular display of “shooting stars” seen after midnight North of the zenith (top of the sky or straight up, then a little North). In a dark, clear rural area you might see 25 or more streaks. In the city only a few of the brighter ones.

All our winter stars, like Orion, are moving into the sun giving way to the dimmer spring and summer stars.

On April 8th there will be a rather pathetic partial solar eclipse visible only from the deep South in the U.S., although New Zealand, Mexico and South America will get a much better view, including totality (it's mostly an annular eclipse with a ring of sunlight around the edge) in lower Central and upper South America.

In the U.S. the maximum (about 60%) occurs around 5 to 5:15 Central and 6 to 6:15 Easter time.

You MUST wear welders glasses (not plastic, but glass lenses) to see this directly or use an astronomical sun filter or sun scope reflection on to paper to view. Looking directly at the sun WILL BLIND YOU!


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