Friday, April 8
Saturday, April 9
Sunday, April 10
Monday, April 11
Tuesday, April 12
Wednesday, April 13
Thursday, April 14
Equally far on the other side of Polaris from the Big Dipper is Cassiopeia, now swinging low and turning into a W rather than an M.
Friday, April 15
Saturday, April 16
Sky at a Glance is now an iPhone app! Put S&T SkyWeek on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and get the above listings anytime, anywhere — with interactive sky maps! Tap a button to see the scene described, customized for your location worldwide. From there you can scroll the view all around the sky, zoom in or out, change to any time or date, and turn on animation.
Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you must have a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and the even larger and deeper Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts effectively.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, or the more detailed and descriptive Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Can a computerized telescope take their place? I don't think so — not for beginners, anyway, and especially not on mounts that are less than top-quality mechanically. As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter are hidden in the glare of the Sun.
Venus (magnitude –3.9) is still visible at dawn, but it's lower every week. Look for it low in the east-southeast as dawn brightens.
Saturn (magnitude +0.4, in Virgo) is the lone planet in really good view. It's just past its April 3rd opposition. Look for it glowing low in the east-southeast as twilight fades. Saturn rises higher in the southeast during evening and shines highest in the south around midnight.
Also during evening, look for twinkly Spica 12° below it or to its lower left, and brighter Arcturus 30° to its left.
In a telescope, Saturn's rings are 9° from edge on. Saturn's months-old northern-hemisphere white spot has spread into a light band far around the planet, as seen above. See how many of Saturn's satellites you can identify in your scope using our Saturn's Moons tracker.
Uranus and Neptune are low in the glow of dawn.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
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