Dark Skies April Update
The attached sky chart shows the mid-April skies for around 9pm BST. Jupiter dominates the southern skyline with the moon close by on the night of the 17th. Mars and Saturn are both visible from around midnight onwards, low in the south east skies. These two planets will become much more prominent in the summer skies, although the lighter skies won't be to their benefit.
April will see a favourable visit from the planet Mercury however. Starting the month low in the western sky, the elusive Mercury slowly moves away from the evening twilight and reaches it's maximum distance away from the sun, some 20 degrees, on the 18th April. It will appear as an obviously bright visitor in the twilight skies, slowly fading in brightness (or magnitude to use the correct astronomical expression), towards the month end and will show phases visible in binoculars and telescopes, similar to our own moon. Strong word of caution though. DO NOT use binoculars or any optical aid to try and find the planet if the sun is still above the horizon. You will permanently blind yourself if you accidentally catch the sun through the optics.
There is one meteor shower active this month, the April Lyrids. This shower usually produces around 18 meteors per hour at maximum on the 22nd April, with the shower active low in the morning north east skies from 16th to 25th of the month. Unfortunately the full moon on the day of maximum will drown out all but the brightest of the meteors lowering observable meteors considerably.
Finally, I won't say “I told you so”... but I hope some of you managed to catch the Auroral display on the 6th of March. Photos taken from our area made many of the local publications, with a shot from Sorcha Lewis appearing as a backdrop on Derek Brockway's weather forecast. If you did miss the free spectacle, there are a couple of low res shots of mine with this article. Clear skies to all.