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Must-See Skywatching Events for April 2012
Lyrid meteor shower sky map, April 22, 2012.
Credit: Starry Night Software

In April 2012, the brilliant planet Venus will shine at its brightest for the year and the Lyrid meteor shower will light up the night sky. But these are just a couple of the must-see skywatching events in the weeks ahead. Take a look at April's best skywatching events below and happy stargazing!

Moon Phases

Fri., April 6, 3:19 p.m. EDT

Full Moon

The Full Moon of April is usually called the Egg Moon. In Algonquian it is called Pink Moon. Other names are Sprouting Grass Moon, Fish Moon, Seed Moon, and Waking Moon. In Hindi it is known as Hanuman Jayanti. The Full Moon rises around sunset and sets around sunrise, the only night in the month when the Moon is in the sky all night long. The rest of the month, the Moon spends at least some time in the daytime sky.

Fri., April 13, 6:50 a.m. EDT

Last Quarter Moon

The Last or Third Quarter Moon rises around 2:30 a.m. and sets around 12:30 p.m. It is most easily seen just after sunrise in the southern sky.

Sat., April 21, 3:18 a.m. EDT

New Moon

The Moon is not visible on the date of New Moon because it is too close to the Sun, but can be seen low in the east as a narrow crescent a morning or two before, just before sunrise. It is visible low in the west an evening or two after New Moon.

Sun., April 29, 5:57 a.m. EDT

The First Quarter Moon rises around noon and sets around 2 a.m.

Observing Highlights

Tue., April 3, evening

Venus in the Pleiades

Venus, the brightest planet, passes close to the Pleiades (Messier 45), the brightest deep sky object.

Sky map of Venus on April 3, 2012.
Sky map of Venus on April 3, 2012.
Credit: Starry Night Software

Sun., April 15, 2 p.m.

Saturn at opposition

Saturn will be in Virgo directly opposite the Sun in the sky, and will move from the morning sky to the evening sky. It will be visible all night long.

Saturn at opposition sky map, April 15, 2012.
Saturn at opposition sky map, April 15, 2012.
Credit: Starry Night Software

Wed, April 18, morning twilight

Mercury at greatest elongation west

Mercury will be at its best in the morning sky for the year 2012 for observers in the southern hemisphere.

Mercury at greatest elongation sky map, April 18, 2012.
Mercury at greatest elongation sky map, April 18, 2012.
Credit: Starry Night Software

Sun., April 22, 1 a.m. EDT

Lyrid meteors peak

The Lyrid meteor shower occurs at the dark of the Moon. The best time to observe will be from midnight to dawn.

Lyrid meteor shower sky map, April 22, 2012.
Lyrid meteor shower sky map, April 22, 2012.
Credit: Starry Night Software

Tue, April 24, 4 p.m. EDT

Venus in daylight

Venus is always visible in daylight if you know exactly where to look. Today the waxing crescent Moon will be your guide: Venus will be visible just above the Moon. Venus is a week short of maximum brightness.

Venus in daylight sky map, April 2012.
Venus in daylight sky map, April 2012.
Credit: Starry Night Software

Mon., April 30, early evening

Venus greatest illuminated extent

As Venus moves in its orbit towards Earth, its shows an increasingly narrow crescent towards Earth as it grows in diameter. Tonight these two processes balance to make Venus appear at its very brightest, magnitude –4.7

Venus' crescent appearance, April 2012.
Venus' crescent appearance, April 2012.
Credit: Starry Night Software

Planets

Mercury will be a morning "star" during all of April, being at greatest elongation west on April 18. This is a favorable morning apparition for observers in the southern hemisphere.

Venus is a brilliant object in the evening sky after sunset all month, reaching greatest brilliancy on April 30. The waxing crescent Moon will pass close to Venus on Tue. April 24, making it an easy target in the daytime sky.

Mars is shrinking rapidly in size and brightness all month. In Leo all month, Mars is high in the southeast at sunset and sets around 5 a.m.

Jupiter is sinking into the west at dusk and will be gone by the end of the month.

Saturn is in opposition on April 15 in Virgo. It is now visible all night long.

Uranus is too close to the Sun to observe all month.

Neptune appears late in the month, low in the eastern sky in Aquarius just before dawn.