Welcome to the April night sky.
This month we still have no bright planets visible in the early evening sky, except for the elusive planet Mercury. This planet is never easily seen as it always stays close to the Sun and is often lost in the glare. The best time to see it will be on the last week of April, when it will be low in the northwest just after darkness falls. On the 29th, Mercury will be close to the star group called the Pleiades in the constellation of Taurus.
The planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible low over in the southeast just before sunrise, with the two brightest, Jupiter and Venus, being seen close to each other on the 13th.
The Lyrid meteor shower is on the night of the 22nd and into the morning of the 23rd. This shower is made up of dust from the tail of comet Thatcher that was discovered in the year of 1861.
On the 16th of next month (May), we will have a total eclipse of the Moon, but it is only visible when the full Moon sets at about 5am on that day.
April is an unusual month as we have two new Moons, one on the first day of the month and the next on the last day. Whenever you have a new Moon, there is the chance of a solar eclipse and, on the 30th, there will indeed be a partial solar eclipse, unfortunately not visible from Europe.
The next solar eclipse that is visible from Europe will be on October 25 when the new Moon will cover 86% of the Sun disk. To see a total solar eclipse from Europe, we will have to wait until August 12, 2026 and again on August 2, 2027. Both these eclipses will be best seen from Iberia and, as they are in the summer, there is an excellent chance that the sky will be clear.
For those of you who can’t wait, we have one sooner that will be seen crossing North America in April 2024. The eclipse track enters the US in the southwest and leaves the continent in the northeast. This contrasts with the last memorable solar eclipse recently that crossed the continent from northwest and left on the southeast coast.
The Moon is new on the 1st, first quarter on the 9th, full on the 16th, last quarter on the 23rd and new again on April 30.
Clive Jackson is the director of the Camera Obscura attraction (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.
281 322 527 | firstname.lastname@example.org www.torredetavira.com
To see the April Sky Map click on the pdf link below