Night sky in April – northern hemisphere
Highlights: Jupiter dominates evening sky. Venus is morning star.
Here is a view of the night sky this month as seen from mid-northern latitudes such as London (51° 30′) in mid April, 2014, at 10pm (22h UT).
The planets in April 2014
Mercury is back in the morning sky but will not get very high above the horizon before dawn for observers in mid-northern latitudes. You will need a clear sky and unobstructed horizon to get any chance of seeing it shining at magnitude 0 at around the date of its greatest elongation west from the Sun on 14 March.
Venus is also low from northern latitudes, due to the angle of the ecliptic at this time of year, but if you have a clear horizon you can’t miss it shining at around -4.5.
Mars is rapidly brightening now as it comes towards its closest approach to the Earth which it makes every two years or so. The planet brightens to -1.3 by the end of the month as it travels through the constellation of Virgo. Surface detail including its north polar cap will be visible in reasonable telescopes. Find out more about Mars here including new maps to show its position in the sky.
Jupiter is now two months past opposition but still ideally positioned for evening observation from the northern hemisphere, being around its northernmost point in the constellation of Gemini and shining at magnitude -2.4. If you have a small telescope, or binoculars held steady, you will be able to see the four main moons of Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, that were discovered by Galileo. Not that they may not all be visible at the same time if some are hidden by the planet. A small telescope will show the belts in Jupiter’s atmosphere too.
Saturn is still mainly visible in the morning sky, rising at around midnight at the start of the month and nearly two hours earlier by the end. It shines brightly at magnitude +0.3 in the constellation of Libra. The rings are open wide as viewed from Earth, making them a fine sight in a small telescope.
Note: The sky will appear much the same from other cities at similar latitudes, such as New York, Paris and Berlin, at around 10pm local time. The sky appears the same at the start of the month an hour later and at the end of the month an hour earlier. We use Virtual Sky, a new, customizable, browser-based planetarium, courtesy of Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. Click on the date or location to the top left of the chart to view the sky at a different time or from another longitude and latitude. If you want to check out the sky as seen from the southern hemisphere, click here.