British Summer Time is now in effect, giving us lighter evenings and signalling the approach of actual summertime :)
April is a good month for garden astronomers, the warmer evenings allow for longer use of scopes and cameras without as much annoyance from dew and lens fogging (or general freezing!) but it’s still getting dark early enough to get some good observing in before bed!
So with a meteor shower towards the end of the month it’s as good a time as ever to get kids into appreciating the wonders of the night sky. Today’s enthusiastic children are tomorrow’s astronomers, scientists and astronauts!
As usual then we’ve listed some astronomical events of interest for the coming month, so pick out some observing opportunities and keep watching the skies!
Wednesday 2nd April - Planet Uranus is in conjunction with the Sun today and is unobservable throughout April
Thursday 3rd April - The waxing crescent Moon is a close visitor in Taurus soon after sunset this evening as shown below
With such a thin crescent you should be able to see some Earthshine affecting the Moon’s surface! This creates a nice effect so it’s worth trying to capture it in some photos if you have a DSLR
Monday 7th April - The Moon can be seen at First Quarter phase this evening
Tuesday 8th April - Today the Moon is at Apogee at a distance of 404,500 km (251,345 miles) the furthest point out in its orbit around the Earth
We’ve yet to target Mars with our CCD camera (and variety of coloured filter lenses) so if the skies are favourable we may give it a proper go, especially as dark martian surface feature Syrtis Major Planum should be visible around midnight, providing a good contrast in surface colours to try and capture in the image
Tuesday 15th April - The Full Moon in the sky today is also sometimes known as the Flower Moon, Seed Moon or Awakening Moon, but also commonly as the Paschal Full Moon
Easter Sunday always immediately follows the Paschal Full Moon (which we imaged in April 2011) so perhaps we should call it the Bunny Moon or Egg Moon?!
The Moon will also experience a total lunar eclipse visible over east Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific and North and South America
It will enter the penumbral shadow at 00:35 and the umbral shadow at 05:58. Totality will last for 1 hour 18 minutes, between 07:07 and 08:25 with the moon leaving the umbral shadow at 09:38 and the penumbral shadow at 10:38 (all times UTC)
Wednesday 16th April - Continuing our recent addition to this guide, below we’ve provided constellation guides for Southern and Northern skies in April, shown below at 00:00 UTC (01:00 BST). These can help you identify the spring constellations you can see in April
Best viewed late evening and early morning on the 22nd April before the Moon rises, you should also catch some Tuesday evening as well!
Tuesday 22nd April - This morning the Moon is seen at Last Quarter phase
Wednesday 23rd April - The crescent Moon is at Perigee today at a distance of 369,765 km (229,761 miles), the closest point of its orbit to the Earth
Saturday 26th April - Mercury is in Superior Conjunction
Tuesday 29th April - The New Moon rises with (and sets just after) the Sun today, so now is a good time to observe deep sky objects when the skies are unaffected by moonlight
An annular solar eclipse also occurs today, which is when the Moon’s apparent diameter appears smaller than the Sun’s, blocking most of the Sun’s light and causing the Sun to look like an annulus or ring. Sadly on this occasion only a partial eclipse will be visible from parts of Antarctica and Australia
As usual, if you take any photos throughout April you’d like to show us, please tweet them to us using the link below! We’d love to see your efforts!
Planets visible this month:
Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!
To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy! :)
Guide images created with Stellarium