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April 2012 evening planets April 14, 2012

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro.
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Jupiter remains visible just after sunset in the west for the rest of the month, though it gets pretty low by the last week.  If you have a telescope, you can can look for the moons and the great red spot. In fact, the twilight skies can actually be helpful if you want to see the red spot since the lower contrast between the sky and the white parts of the planet makes it easier to see the dark atmospheric features. For the great red spot, check Transit Times of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot – Interactive Observing Tools – SkyandTelescope.com. For the Moons, see Jupiter’s Moons Javascript Utility – Interactive Observing Tools – SkyandTelescope.com.

Venus remains in the western sky all month too. It is in the waning crescent phase, which means it is getting closer to us, so it will get brighter throughout the month. Watch Venus and the crescent Moon on April 24.

Mars is high in the sky all evening in April. It makes a very nice pairing with blue Regulus. Retrograde ends mid month, and it starts moving back to the east relative to the stars. Look for a fat quarter Moon to pass Mars on April 30 – May 1. Try a green filter on your telescope to bring out the dark surface features.

Saturn rises a bit before 10 PM early in the month. Opposition occurs on April 15, so it rises at sunset that night. It doesn’t become easy to view in twilight until the end of the month. The rings have a nice tilt so they are easy to view. There are several moons that are also visible. You can figure out which one is which using this utility  http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/planets/3308506.html

By the way, Mercury is visible in the morning mid month. It’ll be easiest to spot around 6:45 AM on April 18 when it’ll be right under the waning crescent Moon.

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