Here’s a quick look at what’s going on in the sky during the month of April, 2015:
All times Eastern Daylight:
April 1 – The nearly full waxing gibbous Moon will be at apogee (its farthest point from the Earth).
Before sunrise, April 4 – Total Eclipse of the Moon – To see this eclipse, you will need to be on the Pacific Rim, i.e., one of the countries or cities located around the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Across much of the US and Canada, this eclipse will coincide with moonset; the farther west you go, the more of the eclipse you will see. Alaska and Hawaii will have an excellent view as the eclipse will occur in the middle of the night. This eclipse is called one of the shortest — totality lasts less than 5 minutes. The partial phase is visible everywhere in North America, except parts of Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. Times: Moon Enters Penumbra: 5:01 a.m. – Moon Enters Umbra: 6:16 a.m. – Total Eclipse Begins: 7:58 a.m. – Mid-Totality: 8:01 a.m. – Total Eclipse Ends: 8:02 a.m. Moon Leaves Umbra: 9:45 a.m. – Moon Leaves Penumbra: 10:59 a.m.
April 4—Full Moon, 8:06 a.m. EDT. The visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Though the Moon is only technically in this phase for a few seconds, it is considered “full” for the entire day of the event, and appears full for three days.
April’s Full Moon is called the Full Pink Moon. This name came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month’s Moon include the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon (if before Easter), and among coastal tribes, the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn. Learn more about this Moon by watching the short video here!
April 5—The waning gibbous Moon and the blue-white star, Spica, will be very close together. Look to the east in the evening, until dawn. Accompanying them is the orange star, Arcturus. Spica and Arcturus will travel westward, with the Moon, through the night. As dawn breaks, these two stars light up the western sky. “Follow the arc to Arcturus and drive a spike to Spica.”
April 8— The Moon and the planet Saturn will be very close together ( < 3°). Saturn rises in the late evening this month, and is at its highest before dawn.
April 11— Last Quarter Moon, 11:44 p.m. At this stage, the Moon is half full. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is decreasing.
April 11— Early evening, look for Venus in very close proximity to The Pleiades (pronounced “plee-uh-deez”). Also know as “The Seven Sisters,” The Pleiades are cluster of bright, blue stars located within the constellation Taurus.
April 16 – The tiny sliver of the waning crescent Moon is at perigee, its closest point to Earth. The Moon is also in ascending node, when it crosses from south of the ecliptic to north of the ecliptic.
April 18 – New Moon, 2:57 p.m. The Moon is completely invisible to the naked eye.
April 18 – Venus is at perihelion, the point in its orbit at which it is closest to the Sun.
April 19 – Mercury and Mars can be seen very near the very small sliver of the waxing crescent Moon tonight (it will only be at 1% of full). Mercury is visible starting at dusk, and moves higher and closer to Mars each night from April 19-21. Look to the west-northwest. Mercury is also at perihelion, the point in its orbit at which it is closest to the Sun.
April 20th – The waxing crescent Moon, Pleiades, Hyades and Venus can all be seen clustered together. Look for the Pleiades to the east of the Moon, and the Hyades to the west of the Moon, about an hour after sunset, looking west-northwest.
April 21 – The waxing crescent Moon will form a trio with the bright reddish star, Aldebaran, and Venus, in the sky about an hour after sunset. Look to the west-northwest.
April 21 – 23 – The Lyrid Meteor Shower. The Lyrid meteors will reach their maximum during the overnight hours when about 15 to 20 “shooting stars” per hour might be seen by a single observer blessed with a clear, dark sky. The viewing will improve as the radiant (that spot in the sky where these meteors will appear to emanate from), located near the brilliant blue-white star, Vega, rises from low in the northeast at the end of twilight to high overhead during early morning hours. The best time to watch will be during the few hours just before the break of dawn. Since the Moon will be a four-day old crescent setting around midnight, observing conditions will be favorable. A few Lyrids can be seen from April 16 to 25.
April 22 – Acronycal rise of Mercury, i.e., the planet will rise after sunset which makes it in a favorable position for astronomical observation.
April 22 – The waxing crescent Moon and Betelgeuse in conjunction (occupying the same degree/in alignment). Betelgeuse (pronounced “Beetle Juice), is located in “The Armpit of the Giant” Orion, and shines with a cool, dull ruddy hue, and is located 500 light years away. It is an irregular pulsating supergiant star, nearing the end of its life, and as such, it expands and contracts spasmodically. Incredibly, its diameter can vary between 550 to 920 times the diameter of our Sun.
April 25 – First Quarter Moon, 7:55 p.m. At this stage, the Moon appears half full. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing. It’s on its way to full (on May 3rd)!
April 25 – The half Moon and Procyon are in conjunction (occupying the same degree/in alignment). Procyon is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Minor, and is notable for being the seventh brightest star in the night sky, as well as one of the closest to Earth.
April 25 – Celebrate Astronomy Day! Local astronomical societies, planetariums, museums, and observatories will be sponsoring public viewing sessions, presentations, workshops, and other activities to increase public awareness about astronomy and our wonderful universe.
April 26 – The waxing gibbous Moon and Jupiter are close together, visible during the evening hours.
April 28 – The waxing gibbous Moon is at apogee, its farthest point from Earth.
April 30 – Heliacal setting* of Rigel, the immense star that is in the “left leg of the Giant” Orion; the Moon is in descending node, when it crosses from north of the ecliptic to the south of the ecliptic.
*Heliacal setting: When a star is overtaken by the Sun and is lost in its rays.