April 2014

Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.

The Calendar

Date Event
1 Tue Jupiter at east quadrature
2 Wed Uranus at superior conjunction
3 Thu
4 Fri
5 Sat
6 Sun
7 Mon First Quarter Moon
8 Tue Moon at apogee
Mars at opposition
9 Wed
10 Thu
11 Fri
12 Sat
13 Sun 4 Vesta at opposition
14 Mon 1 Ceres at opposition
15 Tue Full Moon in a total lunar eclipse
16 Wed
17 Thu Moon occults Saturn: visible from the southern Pacific Ocean and southern South America, and beginning around 05:10 UT.
18 Fri
19 Sat
20 Sun
21 Mon
22 Tue The Last Quarter Moon will prevent dark-sky observing of the Lyrid meteor shower. The predicted peak of the shower should occur sometime between 10:00 UT and 21:00 UT.
23 Wed Moon at perigee
The waning crescent Moon should not cause as many problems for observing the Pi-Puppid meteor shower. It is expected to peak around 23:00 UT, before moonrise.
24 Thu
25 Fri
26 Sat Mercury at superior conjunction
27 Sun
28 Mon
29 Tue New Moon in an annular solar eclipse
30 Wed

The Solar System

The word planet is derived from the Greek word for 'wanderer'. Unlike the background stars, planets seem to move around the sky, keeping mostly to a narrow track called the ecliptic, the path of the Sun across the stars. Dwarf planets and small solar-system bodies, including comets, are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.

Sun PiscesAries

The Sun and Moon take part in two eclipses this month. Most of North America, much of South America, New Zealand and most of the Pacific Ocean will see the complete total lunar eclipse on 15 April. Nearer the end of the month part of Antarctica will briefly witness an annular solar eclipse.

Mercury PiscesAriesTaurus

Never far from the Sun, this tiny planet is at superior conjunction on 26 April. However, earlier in the month it makes a fine spectacle for southern hemisphere observers, staying visible above the eastern horizon until very near conjunction. This ia a poor apparition for those in northern latitudes and Mercury is lost to view early in the month.

Venus CapricornusAquariusPisces

The morning star is best seen from the southern hemisphere, appearing very high in the eastern sky. It loses a little bit of altitude throughout the month but remains the brightest object in dawn skies.

Mars Virgo

At opposition on 8 April, the red planet is aloft all night for viewing.

1 Ceres Virgo

The largest body in the main asteroid belt, 1 Ceres reaches opposition on 14 April. Although it is at its brightest, it is only seventh magnitude so binoculars or a telescope will be necessary to see it.

4 Vesta Virgo

Although smaller than 1 Ceres, 4 Vesta can be seen by the naked eye with sufficiently dark skies. This sixth magnitude object reaches opposition on 13 April.

Jupiter Gemini

Quadrature is an excellent time to observe the gas giants as the interplay of shadows between the planets and their satellites is at its most pronounced. Jupiter reaches east quadrature on the first day of the month so look for it in early evening; it sets before midnight by the end of the month.

Saturn Libra

Many residents of South America will be treated to sight of Saturn disappearing behind the face of the Moon on 17 April. The ringed planet rises in early evening and is visible for the rest of the night.

Uranus Pisces

At solar conjunction on the second day of the month, this ice giant is unobservable throughout April.

Neptune Aquarius

A small telescope is necessary to view the most distant planet in the solar system. It should be far enough removed from the solar glare to be visible in the early morning hours.

The Celestial Sphere

Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) recognises 88 different constellations. The brightest stars as seen from the Earth are easy to spot but do you know their proper names? With a set of binoculars you can look for fainter objects such as nebulae and galaxies and star clusters or some of the closest stars to the Sun.

Descriptions of the sky for observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres are available for the following times this month. Subtract one hour from your local time if summer (daylight savings) time is in effect.

Local Time Northern Hemisphere Southern Hemisphere
1730 hours (1830 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
1930 hours (2030 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
2130 hours (2230 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
2330 hours (0030 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0130 hours (0230 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0330 hours (0430 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0530 hours (0630 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S