BACKYARD STARGAZER: What’s in the skies of April?

By Francis Parnell

In April, the Moon visits the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn just before sunrise. Binoculars will give a nice view. Looking east just before dawn on the 6th, the Moon is about 4.5 degrees below Saturn with bright Jupiter to their left completing a nice celestial triangle. On the 7th just before dawn, the thin crescent Moon is about 5 degrees below Jupiter. Saturn is upper right adding to the pleasing predawn scene. At dusk on the 16th, red Mars is about 5 degrees above the waxing crescent Moon. The next night, the 17th, the Moon has moved along its orbit and is now 5 degrees above Mars. Just before dawn on the 26th, look west to find the almost full Moon 5 degrees from Spica, Virgo’s brightest star. Catch this brilliant pair before they set. On the 26th, the full Moon is at perigee, 222,061 miles, and is a Super Moon. Watch it rising behind distant objects and experience the “Moon illusion.” Native Americans called the April full Moon the Pink Moon because the grass pink orchid, or wild ground phlox, is one of the earliest flowers of spring. Next month’s full Moon will be 40 miles closer and will be another Super Moon. Looking south-southwest before dawn on the 29th, the waning gibbous Moon is only 3.5 degrees above Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius, the Scorpion. Scorpius actually resembles the object it represents, from the curved tail to the “stinger!” Enjoy the warmer weather and “Keep looking up!”

Author: Stephan Drew

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