Our Friendly Skies - April 2013
The All-Sky Chart for April 2013. (Tristate Astronomers / March 29, 2013)
April is upon us. That means a last opportunity for some early evening viewing of some of the famous winter constellations like Orion, while familiar spring and summer constellations rise earlier each evening to take their place. Let’s take a look at some things you can expect to see this month, beginning with the stars!
Start by using the Big Dipper to help us locate some familiar constellations in the night sky. Find the Big Dipper by looking high in the northern sky, with four stars forming the cup and the three stars that form the handle pointing back to the east where the sun rises in the morning.
Follow the curved arc of the handle as we “Arc to Arcturus,” a bright orange-red star found about halfway between the horizon and the zenith, which is the point directly overhead at your location. Arcturus is the brightest star in the constellation Bootes the Herdsman.
Now go back to the Big Dipper once again, but this time, imagine poking holes in the bottom of the cup. Then imagine pouring water into the cup which would then “Leak to Leo” out the bottom. Leo is identified by the backwards question mark shaped sickle, which marks the head and mane of the lion, with the bright star Regulus at the bottom, marking the lion’s heart. His body then extends back toward the east from here.
April is also the last month where we will see some prominent winter stars in the early evening sky until next fall. Look to the western horizon, where the sun sets to see the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. Sirius is where you would find the tag on the collar of Canis Major, The Great Dog.
To the north of Sirius, also just a little above the horizon, you’ll see three stars in a row that make up the belt of Orion the Hunter. The bright orange-red star to the east of the belt is called Betelgeuse, while the bright blue star to the west, just above the horizon, is Rigel.
Finally, look just past the shield of Orion to the North to find the “V” shaped head of Taurus the Bull, and his bright orange eye, the star Aldebaran.
For a more detailed tour of the night sky check out Skylights, the monthly podcast tour of the night sky, downloadable at www.antpod.com.
The April solar system
JUPITER is still visible in the evening sky though still brighter than Sirius, continues to fade. Look for Jupiter shining brightly in the western sky in the constellation Taurus the Bull.
VENUS will not be visible early in the month, but by the end of April, it should be visible very low on the western horizon, just after sunset, making it very hard to pick out.