April’s evening skies offer plenty of stars to check out. However, aside from Jupiter low in the west, planets are in short supply. Our latest Sky Tour podcast helps you track down Mars, Saturn, and much during April’s pleasant nights.

This episode is sponsored by Celestron, manufacturer of high-quality telescopes and an industry leader in developing exciting optical products with revolutionary technologies.

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Listen to this episode on Sky & Telescope’s YouTube channel.

April is one of the better months for stargazing. Spring evenings at mid-northern latitudes are generally pleasant, and the bugs haven’t taken control — yet! Even with daylight time in effect, evening twilight comes fairly early. You’ll find that the Sun sets between 7:30 and 8:00 during most of this month, and by 9:00 p.m. it’s good and dark.

Planet-wise, this is definitely a month of transition — and that’s not a good thing. As evening twilight ends, Mercury is plunging into the twilight glow so quickly that there’s little chance of spotting it. Jupiter is hanging in there, literally, low above the western horizon as darkness falls. But by month’s end, seeing the King of Planets will be only a pleasant memory until it reappears before dawn in late June. Venus is likewise swallowed by sunlight.

Mars and Saturn April 2024
During April, Mars and Saturn are low in the east as dawn approaches. But by month’s end, Saturn has pulled away and become easier to spot.
Sky & Telescope

So that leaves Mars and Saturn, both of which can be spotted before dawn if you’ve got an unobstructed view toward east. Start looking about 30 minutes before sunrise in early April and 45 minutes before later on. Watch for a pair of medium-bright stars (actually planets) very close to the horizon. Saturn starts off to the left of Mars, but on April 10th they pass very close to one another and appear identical in brightness. After that they gradually climb higher up and get easier to spot, with Mars to the left of Saturn.

On one particular morning, these two worlds will be separated in the morning sky by just ½° — and you’ll have to listen to this month’s Sky Tour episode to learn which date to wake up early!

April’s evening skies offer plenty of stars to check out. First, look over in the west about a half hour after sunset. In early April, as twilight deepens, you’ll spot the last vestiges of the northern winter sky. Orion is there, getting ready to exit the evening sky. Look for the three stars in a horizontal row that mark the Hunter’s belt. Above the belt is the bright star Betelgeuse, and lower down is equally bright Rigel. These two stars frame Orion’s body. Now look a little wider. To the left of the belt is Sirius, the brightest star in the nighttime sky.

Well above Sirius and Orion, about halfway from the southwestern horizon to overhead, is the bright star Procyon. Now swing your gaze well to Procyon’s right to spot the bright star Capella.

Meanwhile, over in the northeast, look three fists from the end of the Big Dipper’s handle, and you’ll reach the star Arcturus. This is the fourth brightest star in the night sky. Together with Sirius, which is #1, and Capella, #6, these three stars make an enormous triangle that nearly spans the entire evening sky.

This is just a sample of the easy-to-follow guidance you’ll get from the April episode of our long-running Sky Tour podcast. It’s worth a listen — just 10 minutes long — and once you’ve heard it you’ll be on your way to mastering your way-finding in the nighttime sky.

Read the full podcast transcript.


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