October 22, 2021

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The brightest planets in April’s night sky: How to see them (and when)

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April starts off with but a single planet in the evening sky: Mars. The red planet continues to slowly recede from the Earth and subsequently continues to fade. But by month’s end, the smallest and closest planet to the sun, Mercury, begins to appear, low in the western sky after sunset. And if you have a flat and unobstructed horizon, you might also catch a brief glimpse of Venus shining through the bright twilight below Mercury. Meanwhile, in the predawn skies, Jupiter and Saturn are evident low in the east-southeast sky. 

In our schedule, remember that when measuring the angular separation between two celestial objects, your clenched fist held at arm’s length measures roughly 10-degrees. Here, we present a schedule below which provides some of the best planet viewing times as well directing you as to where to look to see them.


(Image credit: Starry Night)

Mercury — stands at superior conjunction on April 18th. Approaching perihelion, it will quickly enter the evening sky, becoming an easy naked-eye sight by month’s end. By the evening of the 27th, Mercury will attain an elongation of 10° east of the sun and sets about 55 minutes after it. At magnitude -1.5 (a trifle brighter than Sirius, the brightest star), Mercury should be readily visible in binoculars about 12° to the southwest of (below) the Pleiades. Greatest elongation will occur on May 17th.


starry night sky April 2021 venus

(Image credit: Starry Night)

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