By Garry Beckstrom
HERE’S WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS MONTH
Click HERE to Download our basic EVENING Star Map for April 2017 (pdf)
(For star maps to print properly, download pdf and save to your computer, then print from there.)
Download our star maps to help you find your way around the sky.
Our basic star maps show the planets and major star patterns or constellations visible in the evening and morning skies this month, without faint background stars. This makes it easier to pick out the brighter patterns in the real sky. Hold the map over your head with “North” on the map facing the direction north. The middle of the circular map (marked “zenith”) is the point directly over your head. The edges of the circular map mark the horizon all around you. Find one of the bright constellation patterns, ignoring fainter stars you might see in between. You can then jump from constellation to constellation, finding your way around the sky. It helps to use a dim, red flashlight so that you can see both the map and the sky together.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS MONTH
All descriptions below are for mid-northern latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. EST is Eastern Standard Time in North America.
EDT is Eastern Daylight Time in North America.
Below you’ll find a section about what to see in the EVENING SKY this month, followed by a section about what to see in the early MORNING SKY before dawn.
Below those sections you’ll find a list of dates this month where we point out specific things to look for on those days, along with other interesting information.
We hope you’ll find our night sky information fun and easy to use. Happy Stargazing!
THE EVENING SKY IN APRIL
The planet Jupiter dominates the night sky this month. During April the giant planet is the closest, biggest and brightest it will appear in the sky all this year. Right now Jupiter rises toward the east as the Sun sets in the west, is visible all night, and sets toward the west as the Sun rises in the morning.
You’ll notice the bright star Spica near Jupiter all month too.
The little planet Mercury is usually hard to see because it is always close to the horizon during twilight either before sunrise or after sunset.
But, you have a chance during the first week of April to catch a glimpse of this elusive planet. In fact, on April 1 Mercury is at its greatest distance away from the Sun in the sky, but by the end of the week it is again getting too low to see.
Can you find Mars above and to the left of Mercury? Mars will be in the west all month after sunset, but will get lower as the days pass.
The spring evening sky always features the star pattern of Leo the Lion. You can find Leo high in the south during late evening. You’ll see in the scene below that Jupiter is to the lower left of Leo. You can use the bright planet to help you find the constellation pattern.
In the spring, it always seems to appear that Leo the Lion high in the sky, is chasing the stars that dominated the evening sky during the winter, right out of the sky. You can see what’s left of the bright winter stars getting lower in the west each night.
THE MORNING SKY IN APRIL
The April morning sky before dawn features the beautiful ringed planet Saturn in the south, the blazing light of Venus to the east, and Jupiter low in the west
A preview of summer also greets you before dawn. The three stars of the Summer Triangle, Vega, Deneb and Altair fly high in the southeast. They will gradually move into the evening sky as we get into summer. Can you find them?
SCROLL DOWN TO SEE WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON SOME SPECIFIC DAYS THIS MONTH
BE SURE TO CLICK ON EACH SCENE BELOW FOR A FULL IMAGE.
April 1 – EVENING – What a sight! Mercury at its highest in the west with Mars and the Moon lined up into some of the bright winter stars.
April 5 – EVENING – Over the next three nights the Moon will pass the bright star Regulus. Regulus is the brightest star in Leo the Lion. Can you see the shape of the lion? Go to THE EVENING SKY IN APRIL section above to see what the lion should look like.
April 6 – EVENING – The bright star Regulus is just left of the Moon tonight.
April 7 – EVENING – The bright star Regulus is to the upper right of the Moon tonight.
April 10 – EVENING – Jupiter is just to the right of the Moon tonight with the bright star Spica below them.
April 11 – MORNING – Full Moon occurs at 2:08 a.m. EDT. The Moon is now half way around the Earth in its orbit. The Earth is between the Moon and the Sun so we see the Moon fully lit. We now see the Moon opposite the Sun in the sky, so as the Sun sets, the Moon rises.
April 16 – MORNING -The Moon visits Saturn this morning.
April 18 – EVENING – Over the next few days the red planet Mars comes pretty close to the Pleiades star cluster, sometimes known as the Seven Sisters. You might want to take a look with binoculars.
April 19 – MORNING – Last Quarter Moon occurs at 5:57 a.m. EDT. The Moon is three-quarters of the way around the Earth now. It appears half lit in the early morning sky; the lighted side always faces the Sun.
EVENING – Check out Mars and the Pleiades star cluster with your binoculars.
April 20 – EVENING – Check out Mars and the Pleiades star cluster with your binoculars.
April 21 – EVENING – Check out Mars and the Pleiades star cluster with your binoculars.
April 22 – MORNING – The Lyrid Meteor Shower peaks this morning. This could be a good year for this shower as there will only be a waning crescent moon in the morning sky, not lighting things up too much. From a dark sky area you may be able to see up to 18 “shooting stars” per hour. Lay back so you can see as much of the sky overhead as possible. Be sure to dress warm enough.
The best time to watch will be just before dawn. By that time the constellation Lyra will be high in the sky. The meteors will appear to be coming from an area near Lyra if you trace their trails backwards, hence the name.
April 23 – MORNING – A pretty sight in binoculars. A little crescent Moon right near Venus this morning.
April 26 – MORNING – New Moon occurs at 8:16 a.m. EDT. The Moon is directly between the Earth and Sun and not visible. In a couple of days it will appear as a thin crescent in the evening as it pulls away from the Sun from our point of view. The crescent, or lit side of the Moon, always faces the Sun.
April 27 – EVENING – A lot of stuff to see in the west after sunset over the next two evenings. In addition to the leftover bright winter stars, can you pick out a very small crescent Moon above the horizon, and below Aldebaran, Mars and the Pleiades.
Be sure to look below at April 28 where the Moon has moved farther up in the sky after Sunset.
April 28 – EVENING – This is really pretty. The crescent Moon is just above the bright star Aldebaran.