The moon is new March 30, so, as April opens, we see only a thin crescent in the west at sundown. By April 6, Jupiter is in the same part of the sky, just five degrees north. April 14, Mars is within three degrees, and the next night the moon is full, plus a total lunar eclipse, visible in the entire Western Hemisphere.
Earth is between the sun and moon, so the planetís shadow is cast across the lunar face. An event such as this will last for a few hours, so everybody should have a good view. Local time for the beginning of the eclipse is 10:53 p.m.; the beginning of the deep umbral phase is an hour later. Totality lasts for 78 minutes, from 1:06 until 2:24 a.m. Of course, this lunar eclipse presages the following solar eclipse, two weeks later ó eclipses always come in pairs. Unfortunately, this annular eclipse is only visible in the Antarctic.
April 17, Saturn is within a half a degree, an occultation in the South Pacific. By April 25, Venus is four degrees south of the moon. New moon (and the solar eclipse) is April 29.
Mercury is low on the eastern horizon at dawn, disappearing by April 15, as it passes behind the sun.
Venus is the bright light in the eastern dawn sky, but not particularly good viewing for northern observers. Neptune is just a little south of the Morning Star April 12, and the crescent moon passes by four degrees north April 25.
Mars is an all-night planet during April, rising at sunset, and setting near dawn. This means that the Red Planet is at opposition, much like when the moon is full, the sun is in the west, Mars is in the east. Itís also the closest approach to Earth on April 14, in the four-plus-year interval March 2012 to May 2016. The north polar cap will be tilted 22 degrees our way and in its shrinking mode, as Martian summer comes on.
Jupiter can be seen in the western evening sky, setting around midnight.
Saturn rises in late evening, apparently moving slowly westward against the starry backdrop. Watch for the near-occultation April 17, in the very early morning (just after midnight).
Uranus is behind the sun, not visible.
Neptune is in the eastern dawn sky, but not well placed for northern observers.
International Astronomy Day is on Saturday, May 10. Plan to do something astronomical!
ó James Edgar has had an interest in the night sky all his life. He joined The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000 and is now assistant editor and a contributor to the Observerís Handbook, production manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal, and the societyís national secretary. He was given the RASC Service Award at the 2012 General Assembly in Edmonton.