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Star Trak: April 2022

For immediate release: April 1, 2022

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. --The morning sky will be a busy place during April.

Four bright planets will be strung out in a row above the east-southeastern horizon 45 minutes before sunrise on April 18. Evenly spaced from left to right will be Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn in a line nearly 32 degrees long. It will be a sight for unaided eyes, for even binoculars would diminish the effect. These planets will rearrange themselves in fascinating ways in the coming weeks.

The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will be less than half a degree apart on the morning of April 30. Both planets will rise about 4:20 a.m. local daylight time, and observers will be able to follow them even after sunrise. Venus will be six times brighter, but Jupiter will appear twice as large in a telescope! This will be a rare chance to see both objects in the same telescopic field of view.

Rust-colored Mars and yellow Saturn will have a close encounter low in the southeast before dawn on April 5. The two planets will appear together in the field of a small telescope, and they will be nearly the same brightness. The best time to see them will be around 5:30 a.m. local daylight time before twilight brightens the sky too much.

Mercury will be at its greatest altitude of the year for observers at mid-northern latitudes, gleaming low in the west-northwest 45 minutes after sunset on April 29. Nearby on the right will be the Pleiades star cluster, combining with Mercury to make a pretty sight in binoculars.

Meteor shower

The Lyrid meteor shower will peak before dawn on April 22. For those watching in North America, 10 to 15 meteors per hour may be visible in a clear dark sky during that time. The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, but they will seem to come from a point called the radiant in the constellation Lyra, which gives the shower its name. Lyra's bright white star Vega will be almost at the radiant, and the meteor count should be highest when Vega is overhead.

Moon phases

The moon will be new on April 1, at first quarter on April 9, full on April 16, at last quarter on April 23, and new again on April 30.

Author: Hal Kibbey Email: hkibbey [at] gmail.com

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