Evening Planets — Mars treks across Taurus

Mars rules the April evening sky. Mars treks the length of Taurus. On April 8, Mars is greeted with a slender crescent moon forming a 5 degree triangle with the Pleiades and a larger star cluster known as the Hyades or “horns” of the celestial bull. Four nights later, Mars sits about 3 degrees to the right of the right “horn” of the Hyades cluster. By month’s close, Mars will be edging near the Taurus border.

Late Night Planets — Jupiter and Saturn

As April opens, Jupiter will rise just after 1:45 a.m. By the first of May, Jupiter will rise in the southeast just before midnight. Saturn lags behind Jupiter, rising slightly less than two hours later tomorrow morning. Look toward the southeast horizon after 4 a.m. to spot an extra “star” in the “teaspoon” of Sagittarius. That’s Saturn. Best views of Jupiter and Saturn are found just before dawn twilight.

Dawn Planets — Venus and Mercury

Venus shines brilliantly in the twilight morning sky. Early risers can enjoy the gathering of Venus and Mercury in the predawn sky. Each morning, Venus slips slightly toward the rising sun, as Mercury climbs toward Venus. Look on the mornings of April 11 and 12 for the closest pairing of Venus and Mercury at about 4 ½ degrees apart. After mid-month, the inner planet duo rapidly breaks apart. Mercury plunges toward the rising sun as Venus hovers in the dawn’s twilight.

First Meteor Shower of Spring

The night of April 21-22 is the peak of the annual Lyrids Meteor Shower. Unfortunately, this year the shower falls only two nights after the full moon. A glaring, nearly full moon will obscure most of the Lyrid meteors. The hourly peak counts will diminish to a handful of bright meteors. Look to the northeast or southeast after 10:30 p.m. to spy the first spring meteors. Best counts may be seen just before dawn as the constellation Lyra is high in the southern sky and the moon is low in the southwest sky.

Global Astronomy Month (GAM)

Each April, Astronomers Without Borders sponsors a global month of astronomy. This Friday night at the Morgan Observatory is part of this global program, as well as Solar Sunday, April 21. Several online observing programs are also available during Global Astronomy Month.

Three are hosted by the Virtual Telescope (VT) Project from Italy. Look at 6:30 p.m. on April 11 at virtualtelescope.eu to enjoy a guided tour of many Messier Objects such as nebula, star clusters and galaxies. The next day at noon, log on to the VT web site for a guided tour of the moon. Early risers on April 28 can enjoy the VT 7 a.m. program about “How to Sketch the Moon.”

Global Astronomy Month also brings a special 10th Annual “Cosmic Concert” by Giovanni Renzo at 11 a.m on April 17. PDT on Facebook at facebook.com/giovannirenzomusic. According to the GAM webpage, “Cosmic Concert is a collection of compositions and improvisations conceived as a visual and poetic exploration of the Universe.” Cosmic Concert is “a concert where music and astronomical videos will be mixed in a natural flow of music and spectacular images.”

Morgan Observatory at U.C.C. (PMO)

Come to the observatory at 8 p.m. on Friday to celebrate Yuri’s Night. Clear or cloudy, a brief lecture will be given about space travel. If skies are clear, late winter and early spring deep sky objects including star clusters and nebula will be observed.

The first sun observing program for 2019 will be offered at 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on April 21 at Morgan Observatory at UCC. Come to the observatory and enjoy live views of the sun with the college’s Hydrogen Alpha Telescope. If skies are cloudy, a brief lecture will be given about the sun and solar observing. Observatory seating is limited and parking is available near the Tower Building at U.C.C. All events are offered without charge.

Umpqua Astronomers Meeting — April 2019

Come at 7 p.m. on Tuesday to U.C.C. Wayne Crooch Hall Room 10 for the Umpqua Astronomers April 2019 meeting. Club news, monthly sky events and astronomy news will be presented. Spring star gazing will be discussed.

A special program to help new owners of telescopes will be held at 6:30 p.m. Everyone interested in astronomy is welcome. For more information visit, umpquaastronomers.org, join Umpqua Astronomers on Facebook or call 541-673-1081.

Paul Morgan is an astronomer at Umpqua Community College.

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