This month sees the seasonal change from winter constellations to spring constellations is more or less complete.
The Plough is practically overhead, with the ‘W’ of Cassiopeia is at its lowest. The stars Vega and Deneb, which form two thirds of the summer triangle, are rising in the northeast although they have yet to become prominent.
The main spring stars can now easily be found. In the south is the constellation Leo (the Lion), which looks like a giant backwards question mark, and at its base is the bright star Regulus. To find Regulus use the two pointers in the plough and rather than drawing a line to the North Star, go in the opposite direction.
The plough can also help us find two other bright stars in the spring sky. Using the handle of the Plough draw a curve round and down. This line will reach the bright orange star Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes (the Herdsman). If the line is continued further it will reach the bright blue-white star Spica in the constellation of Virgo (the Virgin).
Mercury will be lost in the Suns glare during April, even though it will be at its greatest elongation west of the Sun on the 29th of the month.
You can’t miss Venus shining splendidly in the western sky after sunset, at magnitude –3.9. By the end of the month the Evening star is setting two and a half hours after the Sun, and you will be able to see it against a totally dark sky just before it sinks below the horizon.
The red planet will be close to Saturn this month rising into the sky about 3am. Magnitude +0.3. Located in the constellation of Sagittarius. The two planets pass just over a degree apart during the morning of the 2nd April. Mars then speeds away towards the left, brightening all the time, to end the month at magnitude –0.3.
Around 10pm Jupiter rises above the south east horizon. Located in the dim constellation of Libra, it shines bright at magnitude –2.4.
Saturn rises around 3am, located in the constellation of Sagittarius at magnitude +0.5.
This distant world Uranus will be too close to the Sun for observation this month.
Dim Neptune at magnitude +7.9 can be located in the constellation of Aquarius. Rising above the eastern horizon around 5am.
Pluto Can be found in the constellation of Sagittarius. It will always be low down and only visible in a ten-inch or larger telescope in a truly dark sky for a short period of time.
Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt can be located in the constellation of Cancer this month.
The first major meteor shower since January can be seen this month. The April Lyrids occur on the night of April 21st/22nd when about 10 meteors per hour can be seen. This should be a good opportunity to see them, as the Moon will be well out of the way. The Lyrids are so named because they appear to come from the constellation of Lyra (the Lyre). Meteors are tiny grains of dust left over from comets that travel around the Sun. This meteor shower is the remains of comet Thatcher 1861.
Phases of the Moon for April
Last Quarter 8th April
New Moon 16th April
First Quarter 22nd April
Full Moon 30th April