Astronomy EssentialsTonight

Visible planets and night sky guide for April

Before dawn April 22: Lyrid meteor shower

Overnight tonight, the Lyrid meteor shower peaks. The best time to watch is before dawn. The moon is nearly full, hiding all but the brightest meteors in its glare. Diehards will be watching in moonlight. Should you? Even one bright meteor – streaking along in the glare of the bright moon – would make it all worthwhile. Tips for watching a meteor shower in moonlight here.

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Chart showing constellation Lyra and radial arrows from meteor shower radiant point near it.
Lyrid meteors radiate from near the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp. You don’t need to identify Vega or Lyra in order to watch the Lyrid meteor shower. But you do need to know when the radiant rises, in this case in the northeast before midnight. That’s why the Lyrids are typically best between midnight and dawn. You’ll see the most meteors after the radiant has come over the horizon. The meteors radiate from there, but will appear unexpectedly, in any and all parts of the sky. Image via EarthSky.

Our charts are mostly set for the northern half of Earth. To see a precise view – and time – from your location, try Stellarium Online.

April 22 evening: Moon near Spica

On the evening of April 22, 2024, the fat waxing gibbous moon will hang near the bright star Spica in Virgo the Maiden. They’ll rise before sunset and be visible until sunrise.

A large white dot for the moon near a small dot for Spica on April 22.
Chart via EarthSky.

April 23: Full moon near Spica

The full moon will glow brightly near the bright star Spica in Virgo the Maiden. Full moon occurs at 23:49 UTC (6:49 p.m. CDT) on April 23, 2024. It’ll be visible all night.

A large white dot for the moon near a small dot for Spica on April 23.
Chart via EarthSky.

Our charts are mostly set for the northern half of Earth. To see a precise view – and time – from your location, try Stellarium Online.

April evenings: Can you still see Jupiter?

For the first three days of April, Jupiter appears low in the west shortly after sunset. But during the month’s final week, it lies too low in the bright evening twilight to be easily seen. It’ll be challenging to spot.

White dots for Jupiter and the Pleiades in April 2024.
Chart via EarthSky.

See a 1-minute video about phases of the moon in April

Want to know about moon phases for April? Join EarthSky’s Marcy Curran for a 1-minute video tour of the moon phases – and dates when the moon visits planets in our sky – in this EarthSky Minute.

Our charts are mostly set for the northern half of Earth. To see a precise view – and time – from your location, try Stellarium Online.

April 26 and 27 mornings: Moon near Antares

On the mornings of April 26 and 27, 2024, the waning gibbous moon will lie close to the bright star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. They’ll be visible from early morning until dawn. Also, skywatchers in Asia and Africa will see the moon pass in front of – or occult – Antares near 21 UTC on April 26.

White dots for the moon on two days with a red dot for Antares.
Chart via EarthSky.

The Big Dipper and Leo the Lion

April is a great time to look up overhead in the evening sky and find the well-known pattern of stars we call the Big Dipper. It’s an asterism – or obvious pattern of stars – and part of the constellation Ursa Major the Great Bear. Also, you can find the constellation Leo the Lion. Leo has another well-known asterism known as the Sickle. The Sickle looks like a backward question mark that is punctuated by the bright star Regulus. In fact, the Big Dipper can help you locate Leo and the Sickle. An imaginary line drawn southward from the pointer stars in the Big Dipper – the two outer stars in the Dipper’s bowl – points toward Leo the Lion.

Stars of the Big Dipper and Leo the Lion with a line from the Pointers to Leo.
Chart via EarthSky.

The Big Dipper and Polaris

Plus, the Big Dipper can direct you to find Polaris, the North Pole Star. The two outer stars in the bowl of the Dipper point to Polaris. It’s at the end of the handle of Ursa Minor the Little Bear, commonly known as the Little Dipper. Look for the Big and Little Dippers high in the northern sky on spring evenings. This view is for the Northern Hemisphere.

The Big and Little Dipper with arrow showing how 2 stars from the Big Dipper point to Polaris.
Chart via EarthSky.

Cancer the Crab

Cancer the Crab, with its Beehive star cluster, needs a dark sky to be seen. It lies between the Gemini twin stars Castor and Pollux, and the bright star Regulus in Leo the Lion.

Once you’ve found Cancer – if your sky is dark – you can see the wonderful open star cluster called the Beehive. It contains some 1,000 stars.

Star chart: upside down Y shape for constellation Cancer, with other labeled stars and small dots for cluster.
Chart via EarthSky.

Have fun exploring the sky!

April evenings: Jupiter

Jupiter appears low in the west shortly after sunset in the first three weeks of April. During the month’s final week, it lies too low in the bright evening twilight to be easily seen. At the beginning of the month, Jupiter sets about three hours after sunset. At month’s end, Jupiter lies low in the evening twilight and may be challenging to spot. Jupiter will lie near the delicate Pleiades star cluster.

White dots for Jupiter and the Pleiades in April 2024.
Chart via EarthSky.

April mornings: Mars and Saturn

Mars and Saturn lie low in the morning twilight in April 2024. They shine with similar brightness and have a close pairing on the mornings of April 10 and 11. Saturn will climb a bit higher as the month goes on, and Mars will not move as much on the sky’s dome. By month’s end, Saturn will rise about two hours before sunrise and Mars will follow it about an hour later. Both planets will be easier to find in the coming months as they climb out of the morning glare.

Dots and arrows showing path of Mars and Saturn in the month of April.
Chart via EarthSky.

Where’s Venus and Mercury?

Venus is too close to the sun to be visible this month, and it’ll emerge in the evening sky around the beginning of August. Mercury will disappear from the bright evening twilight at the beginning of April and return to the morning sky in May.

Thank you to all who submit images to EarthSky Community Photos! View community photos here. We love you all. Submit your photo here.

Looking for a dark sky? Check out EarthSky’s Best Places to Stargaze.

Sky dome maps for visible planets and night sky

The sky dome maps come from master astronomy chart-maker Guy Ottewell. You’ll find charts like these for every month of 2024 in his Astronomical Calendar.

Guy Ottewell explains sky dome maps

Circle constellations, planets, the moon, the Milky Way and celestial lines.
Here is the sky dome view for April 2024. It shows what is above the horizon at mid-evening for mid-northern latitudes. The view may vary depending on your location. Image via Guy Ottewell’s 2024 Astronomical Calendar.

Heliocentric solar system visible planets and more

The sun-centered charts come from Guy Ottewell. You’ll find charts like these for every month of 2024 in his Astronomical Calendar.

Guy Ottewell explains heliocentric charts.

Circle with sun at center, planets around, and zodiac names on outer edge.
Heliocentric view of solar system, April 2024. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2024 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.

Some resources to enjoy

For more videos of great night sky events, visit EarthSky’s YouTube page.

Watch EarthSky’s video about Two Great Solar Eclipses Coming Up

Don’t miss anything. Subscribe to daily emails from EarthSky. It’s free!

Visit EarthSky’s Best Places to Stargaze to find a dark-sky location near you.

Post your own night sky photos at EarthSky Community Photos.

Translate Universal Time (UTC) to your time.

See the indispensable Observer’s Handbook, from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Visit Stellarium-Web.org for precise views from your location.

Almanac: Bright visible planets (rise and set times for your location).

Visit TheSkyLive for precise views from your location.

Visible planets: Illustration of mythological constellations in the sky.
Attention amateur astronomers! Guy Ottewell’s popular and informative Astronomical Calendar for 2024 is available in both electronic and printed versions.

Bottom line: Visible planets and star guide for April 2024. Lyrid meteors make a showing before dawn April 21 and April 22.

Posted 
April 21, 2024
 in 
Astronomy Essentials

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