What's Up in The Sky Now
April 2018 (Notes by DMAS member Dave Lynch)
The planets we all enjoy throughout summer are slowly returning to the night sky this month. Although April is not known for clear and crisp skies, temperatures are warming up so nighttime observing will also be heating up.
MERCURY has put in its minimum appearance and once again has dropped out of sight for those of us in the Midwest. Even by month's end this innermost planet will just barely peek above the horizon.
VENUS is the brightest object in the night sky this month. High in the west at sundown, Venus will remain in view for almost two hours afterward. This month Venus makes an up close and personal appearance with both the Pleiades & Hyades.
EARTH, if past history stands, should begin to warm up and clean up as well with spring rains washing away the sooty residue of our short winter. Color will once again be exploding and the trees will begin to blot out the night sky.
MARS is keeping close company early in the month with Saturn at sundown and will reach its highest point in the southern sky around sunrise the next day. The red color of Mars will begin to brighten as the month goes on.
JUPITER is coming back this month but you will have to wait on it. Rising around 10:00 pm at the start of April but zooming to just after sunset by month's end. With Venus in the west and Jupiter in the east, we will have two very bright planets in the sky at the same time.
SATURN is also returning quickly this month. By the end of April it will peak above the horizon just after sundown. Keeping close company with Mars early in the month, Saturn will pull away from the Red Planet as the month progresses.
URANUS is just about to enter conjunction with the sun and will not be available this month.
NEPTUNE is back in the morning sky but it will be best to wait until late in the month to glimpse this planet. Unfortunately, even then it will not rise very far above the horizon before sunrise.
Last Quarter -> April 08
New Moon -> April 16
First Quarter -> April 22
First Quarter -> April 30
Lyrid Meteor Shower This Month:
The Lyrid Meteor Shower is one of the better-known showers as it has been observed for over two-thousand years. On occasions, this particular shower has produced more than one hundred streakers an hour. In 1982 this shower produced an astonishing 250 meteors an hour. The origin of the Lyrids can be traced back to Comet Thatcher discovered in 1861. This comet passes by every 415 years. That has nothing to do with the fact that this shower seems to peak every 12 years on average. This time around, the timing of the peak for North America is not favorable. "Experts" are not predicting this year's shower to be anything close to spectacular. The one good thing we have going for us is that when the shower reaches its peak, on Sunday, April 22nd, there will be a young first quarter moon. However, due to several ugly circumstances such as Daylight Savings Time and the radiant for this shower already low in the western sky, those of us in central United States will most likely miss most if not all of this shower.