The brightest objects in the night sky other than the Moon bracket the mornings this month. Venus reigns as the brilliant Morning Star in the east, with next-brightest Jupiter on the opposite side of the sky. Venus is quite low as April begins, but climbs higher as the month progresses. Jupiter is well up in the sky in early April, but sets around dawn by the end of the month.
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In the Sky This Month
April 29: The Solitary One
As night falls, the southern sky is a big blob of darkness, with only one modestly bright star in the whole region: Alphard, “the solitary one.” It is the brightest star of Hydra, the water snake, which stretches halfway across the southern sky.
April 30: The Most Beautiful
Boötes is in the east at nightfall, marked by its brightest star, yellow-orange Arcturus. The first noticeable star to the left of Arcturus is Izar. To the eye it looks like a single point of light, but a telescope reveals a colorful binary.
May 1: Beltane
Today is the date of Beltane, an ancient Celtic festival that was celebrated with bonfires. In Celtic culture, the date marked the beginning of summer, not the middle of spring as it is today. Some of Beltane’s traditions are preserved as May Day.
May 2: First-Quarter Moon
The Moon is at first quarter at 9:47 p.m. CDT tonight. At that moment, sunlight illuminates one-half of the lunar hemisphere that faces Earth. The Moon rises in early afternoon and stands high in the southwest at nightfall.
May 3: Moon and Regulus
Regulus is one of the brightest lights in the night sky. Seen with the eye alone, the lion’s heart is the 21st brightest star in the night. And the brilliant star is in great view tonight, standing just a whisker away from the Moon.
May 4: Omega Centauri
From the southern regions of the U.S., Omega Centauri peeks into view low in the south late tonight. It looks like a fuzzy patch of light, but it’s really a cluster of more than a million stars packed into a tight ball only about 150 light-years across. It’s 17,000 light-years away.
May 5: Leo
Most of the star pictures in the night sky look nothing like their namesakes. But one beautiful exception lunges across the southwestern sky on May evenings: Leo, the lion. It’s high in the sky at nightfall.