Title: April Skywatch Highlights
Location: Hawaiian Islands
Date / Time: April 2013
Comments: The two largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter & Saturn, show up nicely this month for viewing on balmy spring evenings. Dazzling JUPITER blazes in the western sky as darkness falls. Shining at minus -2.1 magnitude, the gas giant remains the brightest point of light in the April sky. Jupiter remains in Taurus throughout April, northeast of the Hyades star cluster; gradually moving away from Aldebaran, the red star which represents the "Eye of the Bull." Aldebaran appears reddish-orange, while Jupiter is a brilliant white. On April 13th look for a slim crescent Moon between the Hyades & Pleiades star clusters, with Jupiter about 10-degrees above. On the 14th, the Moon appears just above Jupiter. With a small telescope or good binoculars, you can view Jupiter's 4 bright Galilean moons in their ever-changing configurations. Larger scopes will reveal Jupiter's dark equatorial belts, (one on either side of a brighter equatorial zone), the giant red spot, & other dynamic surface features. SATURN rises in the east as Jupiter is setting in the west. Saturn reaches opposition & peak visibility in late April, when it lies opposite the Sun in our sky, Opposition marks an outer planet's peak because it remains visible all night, and also lies closest to Earth. In early April, Saturn rises just before 9PM and, by the end of the month, it rises at sunset. Saturn shines at around 0 magnitude, & appears 15 degrees east (to the left) of Spica, Virgo's brightest star. On the night of April 24/25, the full Moon will appear directly between Saturn & Spica. Saturn forms a triangle with Spica & Arcturus, the bright star which appears about 30 degrees above/north of Saturn). Saturn appears noticeably brighter than Spica, & slightly dimmer than Arcturus. Notice Saturn's golden hue compared to blue-white Spica, & yellow-orange Arcturus. Saturn's rings open wider than they've been since 2006, tilting at 18-degrees to our line of sight from Earth, & afford impressive views through even a small telescope. In early April we'll have a fleeting view MERCURY in the predawn sky. For the first half of April, Mercury rises in the east just after 5AM, shines at magnitude 0, and stands about 8-degrees above the horizon at day break. On April 8th, look for a thin crescent Moon just to the left of Mercury at dawn. After midmonth, Mercury will be lost in the light of the Sun. Both VENUS and MARS, are lost in the Sun's glow this month. Venus will return to the evening sky in May, while Mars emerges as a morning planet in late June. For an April Hawaiian sky map, visit Bishop Museum Planetarium www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium (bishopmuseum.org).

Maintained by Roz Reiner - Kauai, Hawaii

 

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