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Tuesday, April 24, 2012


The Sky This Week - Thursday April 26 to Thursday May 3

The First Quarter Moon is Sunday April 29. Venus is still easily visible in the western evening sky close to the star Elnath. Jupiter is very close to the horizon and difficult to see. Mars is in the eastern evening sky, close to the bright Star Regulus. It is visited by the waxing Moon on May 1. Saturn is visible the whole night long near the star Spica. Mercury is visible in the morning sky. Comet Garradd is in the northern sky.

Evening sky looking North as seen from Adelaide at 7:00 pm local time on Tuesday May 1 showing Mars, Regulus, Saturn and Spica. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. The inset shows the telescopic appearance of Mars, Saturn and it's Moons at this time. Click to embiggen.

The First Quarter Moon is Sunday April 29.

Mars is in the constellation of Leo. It is the brightest object in the northern sky, and its distinctive red colour makes it easy to spot. Mars is rising before sunset and is at its highest in the northern sky around 9 pm. On May 1 Mars is close to the waxing Moon.

Mars is close to the bright star Regulus in Leo. However, it moves away over the week.

Mars was at opposition on March 4, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. Sadly, this is a poor opposition and Mars will be fairly small in modest telescopes. Even so, you should be still able to see the polar caps, so still have a go if you have a telescope.

Saturn is above the north-eastern horizon, not far from the bright star Spica. Saturn is high enough in the north-eastern sky for telescopic observation in the late evening, rising before 6 pm local time. Saturn was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest as seen from Earth, on the 16th of April, but now is still a great time for telescopic views of this ringed world.

Morning sky on Sunday April 29 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 am local time in South Australia. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen)

Mercury is now visible above the eastern horizon by 5:00 am in the morning. Now is the best time to see this speedy world in the morning.

Mercury now begins to sink towards the horizon, but is still easily visible this week.

Evening sky on Saturday April 28 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 6:30 pm local time in South Australia showing Venus near the Star Elnath. The inset shows the appearance of Venus seen telescopically at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen)

Bright white Venus is readily visible in the evening western twilight sky from around half an hour after sunset for around an hour and a half.

Venus continues to pass through Taurus this week and is draws further away from Jupiter. It comes close to the star Elnath, and becomes one of the tips of the horns of the Bull.

Venus is slowly sinking towards the horizon, and will become more difficult to see. It is a distinct crescent in even small telescopes now.

Observation of Jupiter is now very difficult. Jupiter is very low to the horizon, and is quickly lost in the twilight.

With Mars past opposition and Saturn high in the sky, there are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Comet C/2009 P1 Garrad as seen from Adelaide at 7:00 pm local time.

Comet Garrad is rising higher in the northern sky. At magnitude 7, it is observable in binoculars, it's still relatively low to the horizon and the effects of light pollution means that the best views are in strong binoculars or telescopes under dark sky condition. As the week progresses it will rise further above the horizon, improving its visibility.

However, as the week progresses the waxing Moon will begin to drown the comet out.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEDST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.


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