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Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The Sky This Week - Thursday April 14 to Thursday April 21

The Full Moon is Monday April 18. Venus is visible in the morning sky in the constellation of Pisces. Mars is visible below Venus in the early morning. Mercury and Jupiter join them this week, with Mercury close to Mars on April 20. Saturn is well placed for telescopic observation in the evening sky.

Morning sky looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 am local time on Wednesday April 20 showing Venus, Mars, Mercury and Jupiter in Pisces. Mars and Mercury are at their closest at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

The Full Moon is Monday April 18.

Bright white Venus is readily seen in the early morning sky. This week it is in Pisces. Venus is "gibbous" phase, and will progressively become more full (and smaller) over the coming weeks. Below Venus is a string of bright planets to enlive the sky over the coming weeks.

Mars has returned to the morning sky and is visible low in the eastern twilight below Venus. As the week progresses it will become even more prominent. Mercury and Jupiter return to the morning sky. Mercury climbs rapidly into the morning sky and has a close encounter with Mars on the 20th.

Jupiter appears low on the horizon, but only later in the week is it appreciably high enough (4 degrees half an hour before sunrise), for it to be readily seen. Even then you will need a fairly clear, level eastern horizon to pick it up.

Evening sky on Saturday April 17 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 9:00 pm local time in South Australia showing Saturn near Spica with the Moon between them. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time.

Inset, the telescopic view of Saturn on the 17th , you will need a fairly large telescope to see any moon other than Titan. Click to embiggen.

Saturn is rising with sunset, and is visible all night long. It is high enough for telescopic observation in the late evening. It readily visible as the bright yellowish object not far from the bright star Spica.

The big storm on Saturn is now so large that it is visible in even small telescopes.

Even in small telescopes you can see Saturn's rings and it's moon Titan. Saturn was at opposition on April 4th, when Saturn was at its biggest and brightest. Despite opposition being past, Saturn will be big and beautiful for many weeks to come.

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.

The asteroid Vesta is quite faint (magnitude 7.6), so you need binoculars to see it and may need to watch over a number of nights to make sure you are seeing it. Currently Vesta is not near anything interesting. Vesta is brightening and will be (just) visible to the unaided eye in a few months time. A chart showing Vesta's location is here.

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


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