What's in the Sky? April 2023

Spring is finally here, and we're looking forward to another season of great stargazing!

Venus continues to shine bright in the western sky after sunset. As the month continues, it will get higher and brighter until it reaches maximum brightness in early June. Look for Venus shining brightly at magnitude -4 in the constellation Taurus, the Bull.

Mars is also located in the constellation Gemini, the twins, this month, visible as a red dot in the sky. It will get dimmer over the next few months as we speed past the red planet. Find it above the V-shape of Taurus' face for up to two hours after sunset.

Mercury has returned to the evening skies but can be tricky to spot. Because it is the closest planet to the Sun in the solar system, it is always visible in the sky just before sunrise or just after sunset. Look for Mercury in the west 30 minutes after sunset. Your best chance to see it will be April 11, when Mercury is at its farthest point from the Sun in the sky. By the end of the month, Mercury will be lost again in the glare of the Sun.

You can spot the ice-giant planet Uranus with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. Located in the constellation Aries, the ram, the magnitude 5.8 planet, will look like a light-blue disc. By the end of the month, Uranus will disappear from the evening sky, lost behind the Sun's glare.

The true "stars" of the show this month are not stars at all, but the Sun and Moon! On April 20, some viewers in the southern hemisphere will see a solar eclipse. The rare type of eclipse, known as a hybrid eclipse, will be visible in Oceania, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia. During a hybrid eclipse, the eclipse changes from an annular "ring of fire" eclipse to a total eclipse and back again along its path. This type of eclipse happens approximately once every ten years.  

Eclipses always come in pairs, so viewers in Asia, Africa, and Oceania can look forward to a penumbral lunar eclipse on May 5. The next eclipse visible in North America is an annular eclipse on October 14. From Glassboro, NJ, we'll see a partial eclipse with approximately 25% of the Sun covered by the Moon.