Most of our planet viewing this month will be before sunrise, but Mars will be found in our evening western skies trailing through Taurus and into Gemini. A nice meteor shower will also draw our attention in mid-April.
Look for Mars high in the western sky after sunset between the “horns” of Taurus the Bull, and in front of Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest star. Compare the reddish-orange color of Mars with the reddish glow of Aldebaran, a “cooler” star with a surface temperature of 6500 degrees. (Our Sun, a yellow, hotter star, has a surface temperature of 11,000 degrees). On April 17th the crescent Moon will be seen just below Mars. Also if you have binoculars look at Mars around 10 or 11 pm and you will see a lovely open star cluster called M 35 just to the lower left of Mars in the same field of view!
The rest of this month’s planet action will be in the eastern sky before sunup, though Mercury and Venus will be just above the western horizon at the very end of April just after sunset; but will be hard to see. The visibility of both planets will improve greatly for us in May.
Both Saturn and Jupiter rise between 4 and 5 am local time but will also be fairly low to the eastern horizon until the end of the month. The two gas giant planets will continue to gain altitude each month into the summer which will make seeing them much easier.
However on the morning of April 6th, lets look for the crescent Moon just below Saturn, with Jupiter just to the left of the Moon one hour before sunrise in the southeastern sky.
The annual springtime LYRID METEOR SHOWER peaks on morning of April 22nd. Its radiant is in the small constellation Lyra the harp which is in the east-northeast sky about 20 degrees above the horizon by local midnight. When the Moon sets around 4 am darker skies will allow us to look up toward the zenith for Lyra, where 18 to 22 meteors per hour may be seen. Always find your darkest location away from street lights to find meteors and watch until the dawn lightens the sky.
Full Moon is on April 26th.