BACKYARD STARGAZER: The stars will come out in April

By Francis Parnell

For early risers, April has some nice celestial treats to observe and enjoy.
On the 4th, the Moon visited the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus, the Bull. The Moon was a thin crescent, only 14 percent sunlit and 4 degrees below left of the cluster.
About 45 minutes before dawn on the 5th and looking southeast, you could spot bright white Venus with Saturn and Mars about 7 degrees to its upper right. Saturn and Mars are only 24 minutes of arc apart, that’s less than the diameter of the Moon!
On the 8th, the waxing crescent Moon, Castor and Pollux form a pretty triangle in Gemini.
Watch the full Pink Moon rising on the 16th; but this month has two New Moons. The first occurred on the 1st; the second is on the 28th, and is called a Black Moon. Since February is so short, about every 19 years it has no full Moon, but will have a new Moon and that’s also called a Black Moon. When a month has two full Moons, the second is a “Blue Moon.”
Look east-southeast 45 minutes before sunrise on the 18th to see a pretty line-up of four bright planets. Starting lower left and proceeding up and to the right, it’s yellow Jupiter, then dazzling Venus, red Mars and finally Saturn. The planets are spaced about 11 degrees apart in a line 32 degrees long. If it’s clear, don’t miss this neat celestial lineup!
About 45 minutes after sunset on the 29th is our best chance to see Mercury this year! Look west-northwest to spot yellowish Mercury 14 degrees above the horizon with the Pleiades less than 3 Moon widths to the upper right. Nice view in binoculars!
FAST FACT: After the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, the universe expanded — called “Inflation” — at twice the speed of light. While physics proves that nothing IN the universe can exceed the speed of light — 186,282 miles per second — physics shows that expansion of space itself CAN exceed the speed of light. With Inflation, the universe is now 92 billion light years in diameter. So if you thought the universe was large, actually it’s a lot bigger than we could ever have imagined!
“Keep looking up!” — and far, far out!

Author: Stephan Drew

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