Here we are, finally April and the skies continue to change bringing us closer to our summer viewing pleasures in the night sky. The weather will remain rather brisk with temperatures favoring below average to average temperatures for the month, along with a few active patterns showing up. April will be a quieter month than last in terms of celestial events. A couple of noteworthy events will take place, and many of these on the list will be seen with a pair of binoculars under dark skies.
April 3 - Moon Joins Jupiter [Midnight to Dawn]
Jupiter will rise above the southeastern horizon throughout the beginning of April. However, on the 3rd of April, it will be seen rising together with the waning gibbous moon. We'll see these two pair up within the constellation Libra, the scales.
April 7 - Moon joins Mars & Saturn for picturesque trio [Pre-dawn]
The waning moon will be seen by Saturn in the early morning. Along with Saturn, the moon will also group up with Mars. The trio will appear low over the horizon after 3a.m.
April 15th - New Moon
The moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun allowing it to not be visible in the night sky. This will occur at 8:57PM.
April 22 - Lyrids Meteor Shower Peaks
This is an average shower that typically produces up to 18 meteors per hour at the peak. It will peak the night of the 22nd through the morning of the 23rd. The meteors are produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, discovered in 1861. The shower will run from April 16-25th. At times these meteors can produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. This year the first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight, allowing for dark skies. Look towards the constellation Lyra as meteors will tend to radiate from that area, however they will be seen anywhere in the sky.
April 23rd - Moon near Beehive Cluster [sometime in the wee hours]
Between late evening on Sunday, April 22nd and 1:30AM on Monday morning, the waxing gibbous moon will be visible as it passes below the large open star cluster in Cancer known as the Beehive, Praesepe, and Messier 44. The moon will reach a position less than 2 degrees below the cluster before it sets soon after. Binoculars will show both the moon and cluster in the same field of view.
April 24 - Venus nears Pleiades
Easily seen with unaided eyes under many skies (even bright, city lit skies), the Pleiades star cluster will slide next to Venus on the 24th.
April 29th - Best Time to View Mercury
Mercury will reach the greatest western elongation of 27 degrees from the Sun. This will be the best time to view the planet as it will be at the highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the astern sky just before sunrise. This will be a difficult viewing for us here in the Northern Hemisphere.
April 29th - Full Moon [8:58PM]
This full moon was known by the early Native Americans as the Full Pink Moon, as it marked the appearance of the moss pink, which is one of the first spring flowers. It has also been called the following: Sprouting Grass Moon, Growing Moon, and the Egg Moon. Some coastal tribes named it the Full Fish Moon.