April’s warm nights are especially bountiful this year. Mars is at opposition, shining brightly all night, and American skywatchers are perfectly placed for a lunar eclipse at mid-month. Leo springs high across the sky on April evenings, while Virgo follows a couple of hours behind the lion. The highlights of winter, Orion and Canis Major, get ready to exit the evening sky in the west.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
April 23: Time Bombs
Several time bombs are in view this evening. The list includes most of the bright stars of Orion, which is low in the west, plus Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, in the southeast. All of these stars are destined to explode as supernovae.
April 24: Moon and Venus
Venus, the “morning star,” perches just to the lower left of the crescent Moon at dawn tomorrow. As long as you have a clear eastern horizon you just can’t miss them.
April 25: 61 Virginis
61 Virginis is one of the nearest star systems with known planets. Under dark skies, the star is bright enough to see with the unaided eye. It is a little below Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, which is due south a couple of hours after sunset.
April 26: Beta Coma Berenices
Tonight, you can see a star that shows us roughly what the Sun would look like seen from 30 light-years away. That’s how far it is to Beta Comae Berenices, a Sun-like star that’s south of the Big Dipper’s handle in the faint constellation Coma Berenices.
April 27: Loopy Planet
Bright orange Mars is high in the southeast at nightfall. Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, is close to its lower left. Mars is moving away from Spica, but soon will head toward the star as it completes its retrograde motion across the sky.
April 28: Distant Planets
The two most distant planets that are easily visible to the unaided eye bracket the sky late this evening. Jupiter, which is the brightest object in the sky at that time, is in the west around 10 p.m., with golden Saturn low in the east-southeast.
April 29: New Moon
The Moon is new today as it slips between Earth and the Sun, beginning a new cycle of phases. It will return to view as a thin crescent quite low in the west shortly after sunset tomorrow evening.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.