Bright Planet Notes for April 2011:
Mercury: Still totally lost to the Sun. May become visible again
just after sunset around early April; conjunction w/Jupiter in
May (see Jupiter notes).
Venus: Visible in the hour before dawn, but moves too close to
the Sun by mid-July; then won't become visible to the naked eye
until mid-October just after sunset, where it will be in fairly
close conjunction with Mercury. However, know this: Venus is so
bright, it can be visible even during the day, if you know how
to do it. Warning: if it's too close
to the Sun, it not only won't be visible, the danger of permanent
eye damage from accidentally looking at the Sun itself increases
greatly. Get advice from an amateur astronomer experienced in
daytime Venus viewing before attempting this!
Too close to the Sun this month, and for the next several more
as well. Starts becoming visible again in pre-dawn night around
mid-August, near The Twins (Gemini), but won't become easily observable
in the early evening until early March, 2012.
Lost to the Sun until the pre-dawn hours of May and June, then
becoming visible earlier and earlier until October, when it becomes
visible in the early evening, again.
Rises in the east after sunset in the constellation Virgo; is
visible in the late evening, rising earlier and earlier through
the next several months; will have a close conjunction w/bright
3.43 magnitude star, Porrima, in Virgo around June 8.
Uranus: Too close to the Sun, now, in the constellation
Pisces (The Fishes). Reappears in the east around 3am in early
July, still in Pisces. Should be good earlier and earlier in the
evening through early December
Close to Uranus, so it's in the same boat.
Moons for 2011: 1/4, 2/2, 3/4, 4/3, 5/2, 6/1, 7/1, 7/30*,
8/28, 9/27, 10/26, 11/24, 12/24.
showers for 2011 (green text is good)
|Morning of Max
||Radiant & Direction
Four of this year's showers
(green text) are favorably absent
most or all of the Moon, and offer the best viewing opportunities.
Note that the best time to view meteor showers is usually between
2am and astronomical dawn. Also, the showers themselves occur
for days before and after their peaks, and can still be worth
Sky Clock for Chabot Space & Science Center This
handy utility predicts what the skies are likely to be like within
the next two days. It may take a minute to figure out, but after
that, it's quite simple, and very useful.
Direct link for the weekend
viewing prospects at Chabot Observatory (usually posted
around 5pm on Friday and Saturday evening).
The lunar phase calendar (above)
was created with a very cool program called Quick Phase, which
generates all kinds of info on the phases of the moon. If you're
interested in getting it yourself, click
*transit - to cross from the eastern
half of the sky to the western half, or vice-versa. When an object
transits in an east-to-west direction, it's at its highest elevation
above the horizon. This is the best time to view any object, because
the higher it is in the sky, the fewer layers of Earth's atmosphere
will interfere with, and distort, the image.
For more info about What's Up this
month, check out Sky
& Telescope's web page.