Last modified: Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Star Trak: April 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 2, 2013
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Saturn will gleam at its biggest and brightest for the year during April, remaining near its peak of visibility for most of the night throughout the month.
The bright yellow planet will be opposite the sun in our sky ("at opposition") on April 28, when it will rise in the east at sunset and be visible all night as it crosses the sky. However, it will begin the month rising about a half hour after darkness falls and reaching its highest point in the south around 3 a.m. local time. The best views through a telescope will be when it is highest in the southern sky in the middle of the night.
Saturn will outshine nearby Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. Its rings will close slightly during April to a tilt of 18 degrees. Visit the Cassini Solstice Mission website for the latest news and images from the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn.
Saturn's biggest moon, Titan, shows up easily in any telescope or binoculars. Titan will be south of the planet on April 4 and 20, and north on April 12 and 28.
Jupiter will be halfway up the western sky after sunset in early April, still well placed for viewing with a telescope. But later in the month a telescope won't reveal much detail because of the planet's low altitude. Jupiter will set after midnight local time early in the month but around 11 p.m. by month's end. It will spend the month in the constellation Taurus the Bull, to the northeast of the V-shaped Hyades star cluster with its bright orange star Aldebaran.
Neither Venus nor Mars will be visible in April as they pass behind the sun, because both will be too close to the solar glare. Venus will return to the evening sky in May, and Mars will appear in the predawn sky in June.
Mercury will be hard to find during April, rising less than an hour before the sun all month for observers at mid-northern latitudes. It will be just 4 degrees above the eastern horizon a half hour before sunrise on April 1, difficult to see in bright twilight even with binoculars.
The Lyrid meteor shower will peak on the night of April 21-22. The moon will interfere until it sets around 4 a.m. local daylight time, less than a half hour before morning twilight begins. The best observing should be during that brief window.
For those watching in North America, about 10 meteors per hour should be visible in a clear sky. The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, but they will seem to come from a point called the radiant in the constellation Lyra the Lyre, which gives the shower its name. Lyra's bright white star Vega will be almost at the radiant, and the meteor count should be highest when Vega is well up in the south as dawn starts to break.
The moon will be at third quarter on April 3, new on April 10, at first quarter on April 18 and full on April 25.