¡SkyCaramba! Weekly astronomy blog for the week ending April 5, 2014
April 2014 starts with the crescent moon in the west at sunset. The Hyades, distinguished by their V shape and the orange star Aldebaran, are a little higher. Orion is even higher than that.
Spot Jupiter high in Gemini at sunset. It’s close to the star Mebsuta when April starts. By the end of the month, it’s close to Mekbuda in the other twin.
Sirius in Canis Major is just past the meridian as the sun goes down. Mars is rising close to Spica. And moving westward closer to Porrima by the end of the month. Don’t confuse the red planet with the orange star Arcturus in the same general area. You can see Mars all night every night this month. It’s at opposition on the 8th. (Check out SkyCaramba’s YouTube video about this for more information.)
The fourth asteroid discovered, Vesta, will be at opposition on the 13th. It’s about 1.2 astronomical units (earth-sun) distances away. Ceres, the first asteroid discovered, will be at opposition two nights later. Both are in Virgo. You need dark skies and a telescope to see asteroids, and that’s why you’ll have some trouble with these two no matter where you are. The moon is almost full on the 13th and is full on the 15th. (This is also the subject of the aforementioned YouTube video.)
Maybe a lunar eclipse will cut some of the light wash. It’s been three-and-a-half years since most people in the Americas got to see all of a total lunar eclipse. The area from the Americas across the Pacific to Australia will get on one the 15th.
Saturn rises close to midnight at the start of April. By the month’s end, it’s rising at sunset. For viewers in some parts of South America, the moon will pass in front of the ringed planet on the 17th.
Venus is a morning object this month, heading sunward. Neptune will be 0.7° from Venus on the 12th. The moon passes the goddess on the 25th.
The best views of Mercury in April will be early in the month in the southern hemisphere. The messenger is heading for superior conjunction (on the other side of the sun) on the 26th. Technically, it will be an evening object by the end of the month, but don’t expect to see it yet.
People in just the right places of Australia, Antarctica, and places close by in the ocean will see a solar eclipse in the 29th. For some, the moon will pass close enough for an annular eclipse.
Meteor watchers should pay attention for Lyrids around the 21st and 22nd.