Here’s a calendar of events going on in the night and morning sky during the month of April, 2017, including a meteor shower, a pairing of the Moon and Jupiter, and much more!
All times Eastern Daylight Time, for the Northern Hemisphere.
April 1 — Mercury reaches its greatest elongation (19°) from the Sun. This marks its best evening apparition of 2017 for mid-northern skywatchers, with the planet setting after evening twilight ends – about 90 minutes after sundown – for more than a week. Mercury is almost directly above the setting Sun throughout this apparition, since at this time of year the ecliptic makes its steepest angle with the western evening. Look to the west about an hour after sunset to see the elusive planet hugging the horizon. Best viewed with binoculars.
April 2 — Stargazers take note! Look toward the west after nightfall to see the waxing crescent Moon (40% illuminated) inside the Winter Circle asterism. This formation of stars looks more like a hexagon than a circle, and is made up of seven colorful stars: Sirius (white), Rigel (blue), Aldebaran (orange), Capella (yellow), Castor (white) & Pollux (orange), and Procyon (yellowish-white).
April 3 —First Quarter Moon, 2:39 p.m. In this phase, the Moon looks like a half-Moon in the sky. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing, on its way toward full.
April 6 — Look to the southeast and dusk to see the Moon less than 2 degrees from the star Regulus. Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion.
April 7 — Jupiter is at opposition, meaning opposite the Sun. It will rise in the east near sunset and will remain in the sky all night long. Around this time it is closest to Earth for the year.
April 10 — Look to the east at nightfall to see the nearly-full Moon just 3 degrees from Jupiter.
April 11 — April’s Full Pink Moon will be astronomically full at 2:08 a.m. In this phase, the visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Though the Moon is only technically in this phase for a few seconds, it will appear full for about 3 days. This is the first full Moon of the spring season.
Learn more about this Moon by watching the short video here!
April 15 —The waning gibbous Moon is at apogee, its farthest point from Earth. (An easy way to remember: Apogee = Away)
April 16 — In the morning, look to see the waning gibbous Moon just 5 degrees from Saturn.
April 16 — Look to the west at nightfall to see the “Seven Sisters” (known as the Pleiades Star Cluster) hover above Mars.
April 19 — Last quarter Moon, 5:57 p.m. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon in the sky. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is decreasing, heading toward the New Moon (invisible) phase.
April 21 — Late Friday night into the early morning hours of Saturday, look for the Lyrid meteor showers. Up to 10 “shooting stars” per hour radiate from a spot near the brilliant bluish star Vega. The waning crescent moon will not rise until after 4 a.m., thus assuring dark skies most of the night. The peak usually lasts for just a few hours; its predicted time this year is 12h UT, good-to-excellent for North America. These meteors are the dust left behind by Comet Thatcher, which visited the inner solar system in 1861.
April 26 – New Moon, 8:16 a.m. At this stage, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye.
April 27— The barely visible waxing Moon (3% illuminated) is at perigee, its closest point in its orbit to Earth for the month.
April 30 — This is a great time to view Venus, as it will reach its greatest brilliancy on Sunday morning before sunrise. It will be so bright, in fact, that around the times of its greatest brilliancy, people have often mistaken it for a UFO! Look to the east, with or without binoculars.