Drag Out The Telescopes & Look Up At The Spectacular Night Sky This Week
(April 1 – April 6)
Monday, April 1
• The huge, bright Winter Hexagon is still in view just after dark, filling the sky to the southwest and west. Start with brilliant Sirius in the southwest, the Hexagon’s lower left corner. High above Sirius is Procyon. From there look even higher for Pollux and Castor, rightward from Castor to Menkalinan and bright Capella, lower left from there to Aldebaran, lower left to Rigel at the bottom of Orion, and back to Sirius.
Tuesday, April 2
• Bright Capella shines high in the northwest after dusk. Its pale-yellow color matches that of the Sun, meaning they’re both about the same temperature. But otherwise Capella is very different. It consists of two yellow giant stars, larger and brighter than the Sun, orbiting each other every 104 days.
Moreover, for telescope users, it’s accompanied by a distant, tight pair of red dwarfs: Capella H and L, magnitudes 10 and 13.
Wednesday, April 3
• In this dark-of-the-Moon time, explore springtime galaxies for your small scope using a sky atlas and the Deep-Sky Wonders article in the April Sky & Telescope, page 54. And for much tougher dark-sky challenges, try for big, dim galactic cirrus clouds using the Going Deep article and charts on page 57.
Thursday, April 4
• This evening, you’ll find that Mars is right on the line between Aldebaran and the Pleiades.
Friday, April 5
• Shortly after the end of twilight at this time of year, Arcturus, the bright Spring Star climbing in the east, stands just as high as Sirius, the brighter Winter Star descending in the southwest (for viewers at mid-northern latitudes).
These are the two brightest stars in the sky at the time. But Capella is a very close runner-up to Arcturus! Spot it high in the northwest.
• New Moon (exact at 3:50 a.m. on this date EDT).
Saturday, April 6
• The asteroid 2 Pallas is at opposition and detectable in good binoculars at magnitude 7.9, the same brightness as Neptune. It’s only 4° from Arcturus tonight, on its way to passing very close by Eta Bootis on the evening of April 10th.
And, smaller 7 Iris is also about at opposition. It’s farther south in Corvus and only magnitude 9.4.