The stars of winter are marching toward the end of their annual evening run. Orion is in the southwest at nightfall as April begins, for example, but is quite low in the west as the Sun begins to set by month’s end. Sirius, the Dog Star, trots along behind Orion, with Procyon, the “little dog star,” high above it. And Taurus, the bull, dives face-first toward the western horizon. Venus, the Evening Star, pushes through the constellation during the month.
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In the Sky This Month
April 7: Morning Planets
Mars remains in good view in the early morning. It forms the lower left end of a lineup of three planets at first light. Saturn is to the upper right of orange Mars, with brilliant Jupiter farther along the same line.
April 8: Stepping Stone
Polaris, the North Star, marks the north celestial pole. But it is not especially bright, so it can be tough to find. The Big Dipper serves as a pointer. The two stars that mark the outer edge of its bowl point almost directly toward Polaris.
April 9: Auriga
Auriga, the charioteer, drives across the western sky this evening. Its brightest star is yellow-orange Capella, which stands high in the west-northwest as darkness falls.
April 10: Sparse Neighborhood
Our stellar neighborhood is thinly settled. Only 11 stars lie within 10 light-years of the solar system, and only one of them is visible from northern skies: Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, which is in the southwest in early evening.
April 11: Vela Supernova
A nebula in the constellation Vela spans about 16 times the width of the Moon in our sky – almost as big as your fist at arm’s length. The Vela Supernova Remnant is 800 light-years away. It was born 11,000 years ago, when a supergiant star exploded.
April 12: Galactic Fireworks
NGC 6946 is the source of a lot of fireworks. Over the last century, it’s produced more exploding stars than any other galaxy. The galaxy is high in the northeast before dawn, to the left of Deneb, the bright star at the tail of the swan.
April 13: Virgo
Virgo is the second-largest constellation. It is so big that it takes about four hours to clear the eastern horizon. Yet it contains only one bright star, blue-white Spica, which climbs into view around nightfall.
First Apr. 1, 5:21 am
Full Apr. 7, 9:35 pm
Last Apr. 14, 5:56 pm
New Apr. 22, 9:26 pm
First Apr. 30, 3:38 pm
Times are U.S. Central Time.
Perigee April 7
Apogee April 20
The full Moon of April is known as the Egg Moon or Grass Moon.