Jupiter is one of the 1st objects in the sky to become visible as the Dusk twilight fades away. The planet is up in the West as evening twilight fades. As the month progresses; Jupiter dims down a bit and loses altitude. This is the last full month for an evening view of Jupiter. Towards the end of the month, Jupiter sets well before Midnight.
Saturn has none of the problems of Jupiter. For the 1st week of April, Saturn rises in the SE after evening darkness falls. Each evening Saturn rises a bit earlier. By the end of the month, Saturn rises in the evening twilight. As the month progress, Saturn brightens up a bit. On 28 April, the planet is closest to the Earth for the year. At that time Saturn is up all night.
Mercury puts on a terrible show in the SE during the month of April. It’s stuck in the bright glow of Sunrise and is very low on the horizon. It will be next to impossible to see Mercury with the unaided eye.
13 Apr Crescent Moon right of Hyades Star Cluster, Dusk
14 Apr Crescent Moon left of Jupiter, Dusk
21-22 Apr Lyrid Meteor Shower
24 Apr Bright Star Spica just above the Moon, Evening
25 Apr Moon below Saturn, Evening
Lyrid Meteor Shower:
This weak meteor shower will occur on the night of 21-22 April. This shower will peak in the bright morning sky at 7:00 am. This weak shower will be mostly washed out by the Waxing Gibbous Moon. Consider yourself lucky if you see 5 meteors per hour in the Pre-Dawn skies. This is a very unfavorable situation for trying to observe the Lyrid Meteor shower.
Most sky watchers will agree that the Planet Saturn is considered the “Jewel” of all the Solar System Planets. The reason for this high title is the ring system of Saturn.
To the unaided eye, Saturn exhibits a yellow color point of light with no sign of the rings. In binoculars the view is almost as frustrating. The planet appears as a yellowish elongated blob of light with no signs of the famous ring system.
In a telescope, the view dramatically improves and the famous ring system is revealed. A telescope with an aperture or objective optics of 3″ (75mm) in diameter and a magnification of 75X or more will show that the rings of Saturn are not touching the planet. It takes a larger aperture telescope to show the rings in their fully glory. A 6″ (150mm) diameter objective telescope and a magnification of 150X -200X will show the rings well but also reveal the divisions or separation between the rings.
Rarely does our local atmosphere allow the use of magnification above 150X. This is due to the fact that the air in our atmosphere is constantly moving and is unsteady. This unsteady air often blurs the views of the planets in a telescope. The higher the magnification used; the better chance of seeing this blurring of the planets. When the view of a planet is blurred, its features and fine details are lost from view or the views are ruined.
During the Spring and Summer months, Saturn has a fair position for evening telescopic observations. It may be worth a look at the planet Saturn through a good telescope to see what you think of the ring system.
Gary T. Nowak
Vermont Astronomical Society