The Moon is full on the evening of April 6, hovering near Saturn and the bright star, Spica in the eastern sky. Later in the month, on the 19th, Mercury shares the sky, but this will be a tough observation, as the Moon is a mere sliver in the early eastern dawn. On the 22nd, Jupiter is just 2 degrees south of the Moon, and, on the 24th, Venus shares the western sky with our satellite.
Mercury rises in the east just before daybreak, earlier with each passing day until greatest elongation west on the April 18. Watch on the next day for the pairing noted above, when the very old Moon joins the fleet-footed messenger planet. Mercury is joined by Uranus on the 21st, but you’ll probably need optical aid to see them together.
Venus is high in the western sky at sunset, hovering near the Seven Sisters (Pleiades) as the month opens. During the following two days, the bright planet passes right through the asterism, making for a great photo opportunity. And bright Jupiter is not far away, which could make a photo even nicer. Watch for Luna and Venus together on the evening of the 24th, as noted in the Moon section above. Venus attains greatest illuminated extent (GIE) on the morning of the 30th, a designation meaning the planet is at its brightest, even though it part of the globe is obscured in shadow.
Mars loses ground from the faster-moving Earth, as we swing away from last month’s closest encounter for the next two years. On the evening of April 1, the Red Planet is high in the east at sundown, near bright Regulus, in the constellation Leo, The Lion. The gibbous Moon hangs nearby a bit to the west; even closer on the 3rd. All the way through the first 14 days of the month, Mars appears to be moving west, in retrograde motion. On the 15, Mars is stationary, then begins proper motion eastward.
Jupiter has been getting closer and closer to the Sun throughout the month, and is hidden completely in the bright glare toward the end of April. The very thin crescent Moon is right above Jupiter on the 22nd. This would be a tough sighting, as Jupiter will be right on the horizon at sunset, with the Moon only 30 hours old.
Saturn rises about 9 p.m. near the bright star Spica, as mentioned above, and is visible all through the night. The nearly full Moon is just to the right of the star and the ringed planet on the 6th.
Uranus is in the dawn sky late in the month. Watch for the pairing with Mercury in the 21st.
Neptune, also in the eastern morning sky, rises about an hour earlier than Uranus.
James Edgar has had an interest in the night sky all his life. He joined The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000 and quickly became involved in the Society. He is Editor’s Assistant and a contributor to the renowned Observer’s Handbook, Production Manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal, and is the Society’s National Secretary.