Stargazing Information

April kicks off with the first of two total lunar eclipses that are visible from North America this year, then continues with some especially close encounters between the Moon and several stars and planets. The rest of the month’s rapidly warming nights offer a panoply of bright stars, from Aldebaran, which is vanishing in the western evening sky, to Regulus and Spica, which are climbing higher into the eastern evening sky.

This Week's Stargazing Tips

April 28: Evening Mercury

Look for Mercury quite low in the west-northwest beginning about 30 minutes after sunset. The planet looks like a bright star, far to the lower right of Venus, the “evening” star. Mercury will climb a bit higher in the sky over the next few days.

April 29: Vega Rising

One of the most prominent stars of summer is climbing into the evening sky. Vega, in Lyra, the harp, is low in the northeast not long after night falls, and soars high overhead later on. It is the third-brightest star visible from most of the United States.

April 30: Missing Stars

The fewest bright stars shine in the evening sky in late April and May. That is because the hazy band of the Milky Way, which outlines the disk of our galaxy, is out of sight, so most of the Milky Way’s brightest stars are hidden from view.

May 1: Moon and Spica

The gibbous Moon creeps up on a bright star tonight: Spica, the leading light of the constellation Virgo. The star is directly below the Moon at nightfall. They will arc across the southern sky during the night, then set around first light tomorrow.

May 2: Alkaid

The star at the tip of the Big Dipper’s handle, Alkaid, is 100 light-years away, so the light you see from the star tonight began its journey during World War I. Alkaid is much larger, brighter, and heavier than the Sun, and has a bluer color.

May 3: El Nath

El Nath, the second-brightest star of Taurus, the bull, is close to the lower right of Venus, the “evening star.” Its name comes from an Arabic phrase that means “the butting one.” It refers to the star’s position at the tip of one of the bull’s horns.

May 4: Moon and Saturn

The almost-full Moon arcs low across the south tonight. It’s accompanied by the planet Saturn, which looks like a bright golden star. Saturn is close to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall, and even closer to the Moon at first light tomorrow.

Check last week's tips if you missed a day.


©2015 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory