April Night Sky
Watch Saturn this monthBy Larry Mahon
Agate Ridge Observatory
The season of spring arrived on March 21, and daylight saving time has had us move our clocks ahead an hour. This means we cannot start any sky viewing till an hour later.
Also because we need to get up an hour earlier we need to turn on our lights to see while getting ready for work. Having to move our clocks two weeks earlier this year does not make much sense to me. This saves power?
I must tell you a quick story here. Many years ago my wife Pat was interviewed by a reporter and said, "Astronomers hate daylight saving time." In the publication she was quoted as saying, "Astronomers hate daylight."
This may be partially true, but we all know we couldn't live without "Old Sol." With the weather warming up, we just want to get out under the beautiful night sky without losing another hour's sleep. I think of this story and laugh to myself every year about this time.
VENUS, at a viewing magnitude of minus 4, continues to be the first starlight to be seen after sunset. It is now about 30 degrees above the western horizon and will move about 10 degrees higher by the end of the month and will set in the dark sky about 3 1/2 hours after the sun.
SATURN is very high in the southeast at nightfall, a beautiful sight. On the night of April 24-25, the waxing gibbous moon will slide to within 1/2 degree of SATURN as they set at about 3:30 a.m.
If you were in Anchorage, Alaska, you would be able to see SATURN and its rings slip behind the dark southeastern limb of the moon in occultation at 2:15 a.m. their local time.
Observers along the West Coast are in for a treat before dawn on the 26th when the 70 percent illuminated moon passes in front of the star REGULUS, the bright star at the bottom of the sickle in LEO.
The timing of this occultation varies according to the observers location, in Seattle it will happen with the moon only 15 degrees above the horizon at 2:28 a.m. A pair of binoculars will show it although a telescopic view will be superior.
No matter how you view it the instantaneous, dark-limb disappearance of a bright star is always startling.
JUPITER rises in the east-southeast at midnight or shortly after. By dawn it has become the morning star and dominates the southern sky. This is a sure sign of spring.
Happy viewing between the April showers.