Astronomical SIGHTS Coming to a SKY NEAR YOU!

Graphics c/o Starry Night Education

This page updated April 9, 2018.

See the HOME page or COMING EVENTS for daily listings.

VIS. COMETS page has more details and finder charts for currently visible comets.

The Planets for April and May 2018:

The only planet in the evening sky is Venus since Mercury is presently rounding the Sun to appear as a Morning Star. In addition both of the gas giants,
Uranus and Neptune have pretty much disappeared behind the Sun in the west and are only struggling to get away from its glare on the morning sky.

Venus continues as the prominent Evening Star in the west until well into late summer. Venus tracks eastward along the ecliptic for the rest of the spring, passes the Pleiades around April 26 and crosses Taurus in short order. It passes into Gemini in May (close pass to ε-Gem May 27) and by June is tracking through Cancer passing almost through the Beehive Cluster on June 19. By the end of the summer it is found in Leo and makes a close 1° pass at Regulus July 9.

Jupiter and Mars appear in the east well before sunrise and the two are currently separating with Jupiter hanging around in Libra while Mars slips eastward towards Scorpius and Sagittarius in the centre of the Milky Way. There Saturn is waiting and Mars and Saturn are a scant degree or so apart at the start of April. Both planets dramatically change the appearance of the Teapot with two “extra” stars, that move! This summer will be the time to watch Mars especially but Saturn as well. Mars gets closest to us this summer and largest and brightest in our sky for many years.

Saturn stays above the Teapot of Sagittarius for the next several months and as it brightens this year towards its opposition in August, makes for a nice companion for Mars.

Pluto is still rising in Sagittarius in dawn twilight, we will have to wait until the summer for better views.

April/May 2018 Sky Sights

Venus is the Bright Evening Star in the West
Venus is now the only Evening Star in the west as Mercury slips behind the Sun in the first week of April. Venus at magnitude -3.9 far outshines any other object (except maybe the ISS on occasion) in the western sky.

Venus continues to track eastward and reaches the vicinity of the Pleiades in the last week of April (see April 26 entry below) and continues its trek into Taurus. By the end of May it has crossed into the centre of Gemini. Before the summer is over it will make a close pass at Regulus in Leo as well.

April 2, 2018 Mon: Saturn and Mars in the Teapot in morning sky
Mars has been cruising towards Saturn all spring and it finally passes beneath the ringed planet in the first week of April. Saturn has been hanging around on display in the morning sky and finally Mars’s more rapid motion to the east puts the two in the same 1 degree field of view. Once the Teapot rises around 2 am, the red planet and the ringed planet should be visible. Even closer to Mars than Saturn is M22 the globular cluster in Sagittarius so there is a lot to observe if you get out this morning.

Mars Saturn Apr 2

April 18, 2018 Wed: Crescent Moon in Hyades, Venus nearing Pleiades

Apr 18 Cres Ven M45

The western sky after sunset is where to look for a nice collection of Crescent Moon, Venus and two clusters. The 3-day old crescent is sitting in the centre of the Hyades Cluster. Aldebaran is about 3 degrees up to the Moon’s left, M45 is about 12 degrees to its right and Venus is about 15 degrees right and down from the crescent, -a nice grouping for a wide angle view. The Moon quickly leaves the scene to the east but Venus in the next week or so tracks between the Hyades and Pleiades from Apr 24 to about Apr 30. The Moon is brightening ( FQ on Apr 22) as Venus crosses the space between the two clusters. However, if you are OK with a crescent Moon in the field, try for some images from Apr 15 or so with Venus lower down and before the crescent Moon appears on the scene.

April 26, 2018 Tue: Venus between Hyades and Pleiades

Venus Hyades M45 Apr 26

Venus threads the gap between the Hyades Cluster and M45, the Pleiades Cluster tonight, but the view is nice for several days either side of this evening. The Moon brightens the sky somewhat having reached a whopping 72° from its position in the diagram above.

May, 2018
Three 3 am Planets Across Milky Way -Jupiter at Opposition May 9
If you are observing at 3 am these mornings you have seen the preview of the summer sky with three planets strung across the Milky Way. The first to rise (and brightest) above the SE horizon is Jupiter which reaches opposition on May 9. So it rises at sunset, reaches maximum elevation at midnight (1 am DST) and sets at dawn. The jovian Red Spot is on the viewing agenda for the BAS Dark of the Moon viewing night May 19.

Next to clear the SE horizon is Saturn (around 12:30 am) but its rings will be better seen by the time Mars rises around 2 am when Saturn is higher in the sky and out of the murky air near the horizon. Saturn’s rings are tilted nearly the maximum they can be (25.5° in May).

By 3 am or so, Mars, too will be in steadier air for viewing and the diameter of Mars is steadily growing. It is about 15 seconds of arc across at the end of May and by Aug 1 will be 24.3 seconds. This is bigger than the disk of Saturn (which ranges from 15 to 18 seconds at opposition) but not as big as Jupiter (31 to 45 seconds across). Surface features on Mars will become detectable more easily this month.
Diagram below from Simulation Curriculum (Starry Night Pro)


May 27, 2018
Venus very close to 3rd magnitude ε-Geminorum
A very close pass of Venus to 3rd mag. Mebsuta (ε-Gem) occurs tonight visible from dark until the pair set around 11:30 pm. This star was occulted by Mars in 1976. Planetary occultations like this are very rare and you are lucky to see even one in your lifetime. Next Venus occultation is in 2035 and you need to travel to see it. The 16 minute separation of Venus and Mebsuta on May 27 is a nice view nevertheless. Start watching at dark and in the hour or two before they disappear, you can see the separation due to the motion of Venus change from 16 minutes 9 seconds to 16 minutes 3 seconds when they set.


A summary of the entire 2018 year of ASTRONOMY events can be found here:
ASTRONOMY 2018 Events
An astronomical calendar for 2018 (with diagrams of sky sights like those above) will be available soon for download from Alan Dyer's website here: (look at the bottom of the "about Alan" page).