from the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
Astronomers at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in Rosman point out opportunities starting about April 22 to spot the Moon and four of the five visible planets stretched across our the evening sky. Since the planets move at different rates depending on how far they lie from the Sun, they could be spread out around the sky from the early evening into the predawn hours. But during the upcoming weeks Mother Nature is conspiring to have four bright planets in the evening sky and, during the week of the April 22, they will be joined by the Moon.
Let’s start low in the west as the sky darkens. The giant planet Jupiter, the second brightest planet in the sky, is very low in the evening twilight. Because it is so low, it may be hard to spot. To help with that notice Venus, the brightest of the planets well up above the horizon. Jupiter lies below this beautiful “Evening Star.” Sunday evening, April 22, the waxing crescent Moon will be just above Jupiter. By Wednesday the Moon is to the north of Venus.
Now, look to the south. A little west of due south are the bright stars Pollux and Castor which mark the heads of the Gemini twins. A little to the east of due south again we see two bright objects. The one to the west (right) is Regulus the heart of Leo the lion. The one on the left, the one with the reddish tint to it, is the planet Mars. By Sunday, the 30th the First Quarter Moon lies below this pair.
Finally, rising in the east is the ringed planet Saturn. Saturn is also near a bright star, this time Spica the brightest star in Virgo the maiden. Spica is to the right with Saturn to the north (left). By Thursday, May 3 the waxing gibbous Moon has joined these two. (Full Moon follows the night of Saturday, May 5.) The elusive Mercury is in the morning skies so we have to settle for four of the five classical planets in the evening hours.
So, look ahead to this display and enjoy your evening skies. Keep looking up!
PARI is a public not-for-profit public foundation established in 1998. Located in the Pisgah National Forest southwest of Asheville, NC, PARI offers educational programs at all levels, from K-12 through post-graduate research. For more information about PARI and its programs, visit www.pari.edu.
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