What can you see in the April sky? The Moon visits Mars in the evening, and later joins Saturn and Jupiter for a spot of tea. Also, how to find Polaris, the North Star.
What's Up for April? Finding the North Star, and some nice sights at dusk and dawn.
The North Star isn't the brightest star in the sky. But it can help you find your way and orient yourself nonetheless. Polaris, known as the North Star, sits more or less directly above Earth's north pole along its rotational axis. This means Polaris doesn't move very far over the course of the night, while the rest of the stars sweep out big circles as they rotate around the sky.
Finding Polaris is easy on any clear night. Just find the Big Dipper. The two stars on the end of the Dipper's "cup" point the way to Polaris, which is the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper, or the tail of the little bear in the constellation Ursa Minor. Once you're facing toward Polaris, you know you're facing north, which can help you orient yourself any evening you're out stargazing.
On April 8th, look low in the west after sunset to find the slim crescent of the four-day-old Moon with some companions. To the right of the Moon is the Pleiades star cluster. Above and to the right is Mars. And above and to the left is the red giant star Aldebaran. By the next evening, the Moon has moved a bit higher in the sky and hangs here, above Aldebaran.
Near the end of April, the Moon pays a visit to Jupiter and Saturn for a spot of tea.
Currently, the solar system's two largest planets can be found near the constellation Sagittarius in the morning sky. Usually imagined as a centaur wielding a bow and arrow, Sagittarius also contains a fun little pattern of stars, called an asterism, that looks bit like a teapot.
On the 23rd, look south before sunrise to spy the 19-day-old, waning, gibbous Moon only half a degree (or half a finger's width) above Jupiter. By the 25th, the Moon has crossed over the Teapot to Saturn, hanging a bit more than 1 degree below the ringed planet that morning. So if you're up early this week, raise your mug for these morning meetings.
Here are the phases of the Moon for April.
You can catch up on all of NASA's current and future missions at nasa.gov.
That's all for this month.