Night sky in April

19:36, Apr 03 2012

Sun: Daylight Saving came to an end at 2am on April 1st and the lower elevation of the Sun will become quite noticeable as the month progresses.

Moon: Full Moon is on the 7th and Last Quarter falls on the 13th. New Moon occurs on the 21st with First Quarter following on the 29th. The Moon appears between Saturn and Spica on the 7th and very close to the red star, Antares, on the evening of the 10th.

Planets: Mercury has its best morning apparition for the year, rising around two hours before the Sun. Look for a bright yellow star low in the north-east, just before 6am. On the 23rd, Mercury will be within two degrees of Uranus.

Venus remains in the north- western evening sky, setting after 7.30pm. Jupiter appears a short distance away, further west and closer to the horizon. At the start of April, Venus passes near the Pleiades.

Mars is in the evening sky, being due north at 9pm. Look for a very bright orange star. Close by is the blue-coloured Regulus, from the constellation of Leo.

Jupiter is sinking into the twilight and after the 20th, the giant planet will be difficult to locate.


Saturn is well placed for observation, as it comes to opposition on the 16th, rising as the Sun sets. The planet's North Pole is tilted towards us, making the Rings quite easy to see in a small telescope. Throughout the month, Saturn is a few degrees below Spica.

Stars and Constellations: If we look northwards, Castor and Pollux, the two main stars of Gemini, stand out. To their east is Cancer, and, just on the meridian lies Regulus, the brightest star of Leo the Lion.

Virgo is now clear of the eastern horizon, with its chief star, Spica, appearing midway up the north-eastern sky.

In the west, Orion is now beginning to set, followed by Canis Major, the Great Dog. As the evening progresses, Scorpius, with the ever-bright Antares, begins to rise.

The Milky Way runs south-east to north-west, with the Southern Cross and the Pointers rising higher in the heavens.

Canopus and Achernar are the only bright stars in the south- western quadrant.

* Prepared for The Taranaki Daily News by Tom Whelan, Cape Egmont Observatory.

Taranaki Daily News