Find out what to go out and look at this month

Planets:

Mercury reappears halfway through April and will be very low in the Western sky in the constellation of Taurus (The Bull), it’s the only planet in the early evening. It will reach its greatest elongation in the West on Friday the 29th of April, and it’ll begin to make its way back towards the Sun before disappearing again in the Sun’s glare at the end of the month. Venus can be found at the start of April in a conjunction with Mars and Saturn. You’ll be able to find Venus in the constellation of Aquarius (The Water-Bearer) late at night but as we move through April, Venus will move away from Mars and it’ll move into the constellation of Pisces (The Fish) with Jupiter, ending the month in a conjunction with Jupiter. Mars can be found just above Saturn in conjunction, and both planets with Venus at the start of April. It’ll start the month, you’ll find Mars in the constellation of Capricornus (The Sea-Goat) but by the end of April, you’ll find it in the constellation of Aquarius in the middle between Saturn and Venus/Jupiter.

Jupiter can be seen in the constellation of Pisces throughout April. It spends April mostly on its own until Venus joins it at the end of April. Saturn can be found in the constellation of Capricornus throughout April. It’ll be between Mars and Venus at the start of April, but by the end of the month, it’ll be on its own. Neptune will be in the early morning sky in the constellation of Pisces just below Jupiter at the start of April. By the end of April, Neptune will be just above Venus and Jupiter.

The planets in alignment on the 15/04/22 at 05:00 am. Image Credit: Stellarium
Mercury's greatest elongation in the West on the evening of the 29/04/2022. Image Credit: Stellarium
PlanetWhen It Rises Or Sets
MercurySets at 06:35 pm by the end of the month
VenusAt the start of April, it rises at 02:51 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 03:25 am (AWST)
MarsAt the start of April, it rises at 02:22 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 02:12 am (AWST)
JupiterAt the start of April, it rises at 04:54 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 03:30 am (AWST)
SaturnAt the start of April, it rises at 02:36 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 00:52 am (AWST)
NeptuneAt the start of April, it rises at 05:05 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 03:15 am (AWST)

Alignments, Conjunctions And Occultations:

Conjunctions involve objects in the Solar System, and more distant objects, such as a star. It’s an apparent phenomenon caused by the observer’s perspective where multiple objects that aren’t close together appear close in the sky.

In an occultation, an object passes across the line of sight between an observer and another object. A solar eclipse is an occultation of the Sun by the Moon.

  • 01/04/22 – Conjunction of Venus, Mars and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 05/04/22 – Conjunction of Mars and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 09/04/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Castor and Pollux (Where to look)
  • 16/04/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Spica (Where to look)
  • 20/04/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Antares (Where to look)
  • 24/04/22 – Alignment of The Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 25/04/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 26/04/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Mars (Where to look)
  • 27/04/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Venus and Jupiter (Where to look)
  • 28/04/22 – Alignment of The Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 30/04/22 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter (Where to look)

Astronomical Events This Month:

The Lyrids Meteor Shower:

In the early morning of the night of the 22nd/23rd of April, while most of us were asleep the Lyrids meteor shower will hit the Earth’s atmosphere at its peak. The Lyrids have been observed for at least 2,600 years which makes them the longest observed meteor shower. The oldest descriptions come from China where sources described on the night the 16th of March 687 BC that “stars fell like rain”. The records show that this shower has been more active in the past but has since turned into a minor shower with the occasional surprise which keeps the Lyrids always a bit interesting.

The cause of the Lyrids is the long-period comet with a very boring name of Comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher). The comet has a rough orbit of about 415 years and was discovered by A. E. Thatcher on the 5th of April 1861 as it was making its last pass around The Sun. The Lyrids are active between the 16th and 25th of April and will appear to come from the constellation of Lyra. Lyra will appear in the sky over the Perth hills around midnight so you should go out around 03:00 am when the has setting and the Lyra constellation is at its zenith (highest point in the sky) and look towards the bright star (Vega) low in the North. Give your eyes 15 minutes to fully adjust to the lighting conditions and while it’s always best to go to a dark sky area outside of Perth, you can find a nice park or a large open space in Perth’s outskirts to get an okay view.

This year, the Last Quarter Moon will be in the sky during the meteor shower, so we’ll have to deal with some light pollution from it. In dark sky areas, you should see up to 18 meteors per hour, while in the cities and towns we may only see a few.

The Lyrids on the 22/04/22 at 04:00am. Image Credit: Stellarium
Meteors from the Lyrids. Image Credit: NASA
A Comet. Image Credit: Universe Today
Partial Solar Eclipse:

On Saturday the 30th of April, the Moon will partially pass between the Earth and Sun and cause a Partial Solar Eclipse. During a partial solar eclipse, the Moon, the Sun and Earth don’t align in a perfectly straight line, and the Moon casts only the outer part of its shadow, the penumbra, on Earth. From our perspective, this looks like the Moon has taken a bite out of the Sun. Sometimes, the Moon covers only a tiny part of the Sun’s disk. Other times a partial eclipse looks almost like a total eclipse. The size of the eclipsed area is referred to as eclipse magnitude.

This is the first of two Partial Solar Eclipses for 2022 and unfortunately, we won’t see either. This eclipse will only be visible from southern South America, parts of Antarctica, and over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

EventUTC TimeTime in Perth*
The first location to see the partial eclipse begin30 Apr at 18:45:191 May at 2:45:19 am
Maximum Eclipse30 Apr at 20:41:371 May at 4:41:37 am
The Last location to see the partial eclipse end30 Apr at 22:37:561 May at 6:37:56 am
The moon partially obscures the sun during the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017. Image Credit: Bill Ingalls
April's Partial Solar Eclipse viewing map. Image Credit: timeanddate.com
Types of Solar Eclipses. Image Credit: timeanddate.com

Things To Look At This Month:

Leo Triplet:

The Leo Triplet (M66 Group), located in the constellation Leo is a small group of galaxies about 35 million light-years away. This galaxy group consists of three spiral galaxies M65, M66, and NGC 3628. To see the best out of this galaxy cluster, it’s best to get out to the country with a telescope. To plan an astronomy trip to the country it’s best to check out Astrotourism WA Map.

Messier 65 (NGC 3623) is an intermediate spiral galaxy that is slightly smaller than our galaxy at 90,000 light-years in diameter and is 35 million light-years away from us. It’s low in dust and gas, and there is little star formation in the galaxy, although there has been recent star formation in the spiral arms of the galaxy. The ratio of old stars to new stars is correspondingly quite high as well.

Messier 66 (NGC 3627), is another intermediate spiral galaxy in the group. M65 and M66 make a popular pair for observers as they’re separated by only 2 degrees. M66 spiral shape has a weak bar feature in the centre and loosely wound arms. It lies closer to us than M65 at 31 million light-years away and it appears to be slightly larger than M65 at 95,000 light-years in diameter. We are seeing it at an angle, and it has striking dust lanes and bright star clusters along sweeping spiral arms. Between 1973 and 2016, five supernovae have been detected in this galaxy (SN 2016cok, 2009hd, 1997bs, 1989B, and 1973R) with SN 2016cok, a Type IIa supernova being detected in 2016 by the All-Sky Survey Automated Survey for Supernovae.

The Hamburger Galaxy (NGC 3628) also known as Sarah’s Galaxy is an unbarred spiral galaxy about 35 million light-years away and it has an approximately 300,000 light-years long tidal tail. Its most striking feature is the broad and obscuring band of dust located along the outer edge of its spiral arms, effectively transecting the galaxy to the view from Earth. Due to the presence of an x-shaped bulge that is visible in multiple wavelengths, there is an argument that the galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy with the bar seen end-on. Simulations have shown that bars often form in disk galaxies during interactions and mergers which could be the case for the Hamburger Galaxy as it’s known to be interacting with its two large neighbours Messier 65 and Messier 66.

The Leo Triplet on the 15/04/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Leo Triplet. Image Credit: Reddit.com
Eight-Burst Nebula:

The Eight-Burst Planetary Nebula (NGC 3132) also known as the Southern Ring Nebula is a bright planetary nebula in the constellation Vela. It’s 2,000 light-years away from us and is 0.4 light-years across. The name “planetary nebula” refers to the round shape and in reality, it has nothing to do with planets but due to it appearing like a planet. The round shape is huge shells of gas ejected a star as it nears the end of its life and is expanding away from the central star at a speed of 15 km per second.

Images of the nebula show two stars close together within the nebulosity with the white dwarf that created the nebula being the fainter of these two stars. The white dwarf is at a temperature of 100,000 K and has now blown off its layers. The intense ultraviolet radiation that comes off the white dwarf is making the nebula fluoresce brightly.

The Eight-Burst Nebula on the 15/04/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Eight-Burst Nebula. Image Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA/NASA/ESA)
Omega Centauri:

Omega Centauri or NGC 5139 is the largest and brightest globular cluster of 180 in the Milky Way and is the second-largest known, with only Mayall II in the Andromeda Galaxy being larger coming ins about twice its mass. The Globular cluster is located in Centaurus Constellation and it’s a naked eye ‘star’ and visible in binoculars as a ‘fuzzy blob’. Omega Centauri contains at least 3 million stars and the cluster has a diameter of roughly 150 light-years and the stars are roughly 12 billion years old. The average distance between the stars at the centre is around 10% of a light-year or more than 100 times the diameter of our solar system. It may be a dwarf galaxy that has been captured and disrupted by the Milky Way galaxy and measurements of its star movement by Hubble has indicated that a black hole may be located at the core of the cluster.

Omega Centauri on the 15/04/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
Omega Centauri. Image Credit: Perth Observtory Volunteer Andrew Lockwood
The Jewel Box:

An open cluster the Jewel Box (NGC 4755) can be found very close in the Crux (Southern Cross) Constellation, the Jewel Box is located some 6,440 light-years away from Earth and is 14 light-years across. The cluster contains just over 100 stars, and with an estimated age of its stars being just 14 million years, this star cluster is one of the youngest clusters that we’ve found. The Jewel Box cluster also has some of the brightest stars in the Milky Way galaxy. These stars are supergiants and the red, white and blue stars in the centre of the cluster look very much like the lights of a traffic light.

Jewel Box on the 15/04/22 at 9:00pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Jewel Box in perspective. Image credit: ESO, NASA/ESA, Digitized Sky Survey 2 and Jesús Maíz Apellániz

Phases Of The Moon:

April 2022 Moon phases