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Moon in Winter Circle on April 2

Tonight – April 2, 2017 – look for the moon and Winter Circle stars. It’s difficult to convey the humongous size of the Winter Circle, this lasso of brilliant stars that fills our western sky at dusk and nightfall. But you can see the circular pattern of stars around the moon tonight.

The Winter Circle stars aren’t the brightest star-like object in the sky on these April 2017 evenings. Instead, the brightest “star” in the evening sky is actually the planet Jupiter. The king planet will be hard to miss, because Jupiter ranks as fourth-brightest celestial body to light up the heavens, respectively, after the sun, moon and the planet Venus. But throughout April of 2017, Venus sits in the glow of the dawn and is only briefly visible before sunrise (especially in the Northern Hemisphere).

Not much chance of mistaking the stars of the Winter Circle for Jupiter, though. At nightfall, tonight’s moon and the Winter Circle are found in the western sky, whereas Jupiter shines in the opposite direction and quite close the eastern horizon.

If you don’t see Jupiter at nightfall, it could still be too low in your sky to view. If that’s the case, wait a while for Jupiter to climb higher in the sky.

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The Winter Circle in April is found over the western horizon as soon as darkness falls. The green line depicts the ecliptic – the sun’s apparent yearly path in front of the constellations of the Zodiac. Aldebaran is the brightest star in the zodiacal constellation Taurus the Bull, while Pollux and Castor are the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini the Twins

The Winter Circle in April is found over the western horizon as soon as darkness falls. The green line depicts the ecliptic – the sun’s apparent yearly path in front of the constellations of the Zodiac. Aldebaran is the brightest star in the zodiacal constellation Taurus the Bull, while Pollux and Castor are the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini the Twins

The Winter Circle can be seen from the Southern Hemisphere, as well. If you’re in that part of the world, the star Sirius will appear at the top of the Circle and the star Capella at the bottom (if you can see Capella at all; it’s far to the north on the sky’s dome).

No matter where you live worldwide, observe the Winter Circle at dusk/nightfall because the Winter Circle stars that loom low at nightfall will sink below the horizon by early evening.

Bottom line: Use the moon on April 2, 2017, to find the bright stars of the Winter Circle!

Bruce McClure

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