Backyard Stargazer: Venus takes center stage in April

By Francis Parnell

Just before dawn on the 1st, catch a trio of planets in the southeastern sky. Red Mars and yellowish Saturn are 1 degree apart with bright Jupiter 6 degrees upper right of the pair.
At sunset on the 3rd, a celestial event that happens in April every eight years takes place; there’s an extra star in the Pleiades (the Seven Sisters) the famous open star cluster in Taurus, the Bull.
Dazzling Venus is very close to the star cluster and is the “eighth” sister! You can see the event without optical aid, but binoculars give an unforgettable view!
At moonrise on the 7th, be sure to catch the Supermoon. The actual 100 percent full Moon occurs at 10:35 p.m. But due to the Moon’s elliptical orbit, closest approach at 221,769 miles was eight hours 30 minutes earlier.
45 minutes before dawn on the 14th, Jupiter is about 8 degrees left the last quarter Moon.
Before dawn on the 15th, find Saturn above the waning Moon.
Before dawn on the 16th, spot Mars 4 degrees upper right of the crescent Moon.
At dusk on the 25th, a thin, waxing crescent Moon, with earthshine, is 4 degrees right of Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus, the Bull.
At dusk on the 26th, Venus is 7 degrees right of the lunar crescent.
Looking west on the 28th, Venus reaches greatest brightness at magnitude -4.6 and sets three hours after sunset. In a telescope, Venus resembles a thin crescent Moon.
FAST FACT: At its closest, Venus is 25 million miles from Earth. The Pleiades are 446 light years distant at 2,620,000,000,000,000 miles. That’s 2 quadrillion, 620 trillion miles away!
Reduce light pollution to save the stars, and “Keep looking up!”

Author: Rachel Howell

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