The Night Sky in April
Venus near the Pleiades, with Orion to the left, on April 12, 2015Pestilence has arrived on our tiny planet, along with a lingering fear that things may be generally going off the rails. But in such times we can still take solace in the few immutable pleasures of life: beauty, philosophy, friends and family, and the stars.
And there are plenty of stars (and planets) to see this month. The brilliant constellations Taurus, Orion, and Canis Major turn to the west after sunset and are on their way out for the year. Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars rise earlier each night, blazing together splendidly before dawn in the east-southeast on their way to excellent apparitions later this year. Venus makes a remarkably close approach to the Pleiades and slowly grows in brightness each night as the "Evening Star". And a respectable meteor shower arrives later in the month in a dark and moonless sky.
And what's this? A potentially bright comet is on its way to the inner solar system? Comet ATLAS (C/2019 Y4), the last comet discovered in 2019, is brightening quickly and may become a modestly spectacular naked-eye comet in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more at Cosmic Pursuits on this promising comet, but for now northern-hemisphere observers can just glimpse Comet ATLAS in dark sky with a pair of binoculars.
Here's what's going on in the night sky this month (download the attachment below)