End of winter time
These constellations you can see in April
24.03.2019, 09:48 | dpa-AFX
Starry sky: Even in April, some constellations are visible to the naked eye. (Source: the_thomas/Getty Images)
In April the days become noticeably longer – the winter time says goodbye. Find out which planets and constellations show up in spring and when a look at the sky is especially worthwhile.
After the change to Central European Summer Time at the end of March it will be dark late in the evening. Then high above our heads after nightfall we see the Big Dipper, almost at the apex or zenith of the celestial vault. Starting from the Big Dipper you can quickly find Polaris. Just extend the distance between the two back box stars upward about five times. Then you meet Polaris, also known as the North Star. It is located very close to the north celestial pole, around which the celestial vault with all stars rotates daily.
Polaris serves as orientation
Polaris is not the brightest star in the firmament. Its brightness is similar to the brightness of the chariot stars, which is why it can be easily recognized. Polaris helps find the points of the compass. If you look to him, your face is turned to the north. Left hand is west, right hand east and in the back is south. The North Star is always found in the same place on any clear night. The middle star in the drawbar of the Big Dipper is called Mizar, which serves as an eye tester. Those with normal vision should see a faint star next to Mizar, called Alkor or the Little Rider. For Alkor rides, as it were, on the drawbar of the Big Dipper.
The North Star is at the drawbar end of the Little Dipper. Except for him and the two box stars behind him, the other stars of the Little Dipper are much fainter than those of the Big Dipper. You can use them to check how much the light and air pollution has increased. A few years ago, there was a nationwide campaign in Austria called "How many more stars can we see??" The population was called to check which of the seven stars of the Little Dipper are still visible to the naked eye at all.
Star Arcturus can be seen in the eastern sky
Like a giant index finger, the drawbar of the Big Dipper points to a bright orange star in the eastern sky. It is called Arcturus, the Bear Keeper and it is the brightest star in the image of the boat, the cattle herder. Arcturus is 37 light years away from us. Bootes drives the seven chariot stars around the celestial pole, like a shepherd drives oxen around a gopel – a power machine where, for example, animals run around in circles to drive an agricultural machine.
The ancient Romans saw the seven chariot stars as oxen, trotting like threshing oxen around the horse, which is marked by the pole star. They called the chariot stars Septemtriones, the seven oxen. The name septemtriones was also used by them as a synonym for north.
Leo is the leading constellation of the spring sky
The southern sky is dominated by Leo. It is the leading constellation of the spring sky. A large star trapezium marks the torso of this royal animal, a small, attached trapezium the head with the mane. The main star of Leo is called Regulus, which means little king. The sun passes by it on the 23rd day of the year. August passes. Because Leo is one of the thirteen zodiacal constellations.
Regulus is a bluish, hot sun at 77 light years distance. Closer, at a distance of 36 light-years, is the Leo star Denebola, called Tails in Arabic. It stands at the eastern end of the base of the lion’s trapeze. In the southeast the constellation Virgo has risen with its bluish sun Spica. With Spica, the spring triangle is now complete. Spica is with 260 light years the most distant of the three stars of the spring triangle, to which still Arcturus and Regulus belong.
Farewell of the winter constellations
The winter constellations have largely cleared the field. Orion has just set, Sirius has already left the celestial stage. Deep in the southwest Prokyon in the Little Dog still reminds of past winter days. Still relatively high in the west the pair of brothers of the twins stands. The bright capella in the wagoner flashes to the northwest.
In the evening sky, only one of the five bright planets visible to the naked eye is represented, namely Mars. However, it is no longer a particularly conspicuous star. The reddish-yellow neighboring planet passes through the constellation Taurus and passes through the Golden Gate of the zodiac during the first third of April. In the middle of the month Mars passes Aldebaran, the orange eye star of Taurus, far to the north. Soon after midnight, Mars becomes invisible in the haze of the northwest horizon and sets.
Jupiter and Saturn are well visible
Jupiter stays in the constellation of the serpent bearer, the 13. Zodiac constellation, on. The giant planet can be seen in the second half of the night. Apart from the Moon and Venus, Jupiter is clearly the brightest star in the night sky. The waning, still almost full moon visits Jupiter on the 23rd day. April at a distance of just under two degrees north.
Also represented in the morning sky is Saturn in the constellation Sagittarius. It is clearly visible in southeastern direction about one hour before dawn. Saturn is being tracked by Jupiter. At the end of next year the giant planet will overtake the ring planet. It comes then to a so-called "large conjunction", which takes place only every twenty years. At the end of the month the ring planet rises already at two o’clock in the morning.
Venus retreats – Mercury does not show up
Venus begins its retreat from the morning sky. After the middle of the month it becomes difficult, especially in the north of Germany, to still see our inner neighbor planet. In the last third of the month it crosses the celestial equator in northern direction. At the beginning of April Venus rises shortly after six o’clock in the morning, at the end of the month a quarter of an hour after five o’clock. However, dawn sets earlier and earlier in April.
Mercury does not show up in our latitudes, although it is on 11. April with 28 degrees its largest western distance from the sun is reached. Since it is considerably further south than the Sun in the zodiac, this is not enough for morning visibility. However, in the Mediterranean countries, in the tropics and in the southern hemisphere of the Earth, Mercury can be seen in the first third of the month at dawn just above the eastern horizon.
From 16. to 25. April the meteors of the Lyrids appear. The point of emission of this stream lies in the constellation Lyra about seven degrees southwest of Vega, main star of Lyra. The maximum of Lyrid activity is in the night of 22. at 23. April, expecting to see around twenty shooting stars per hour. The meteoroids dive with about 50 kilometers per second into the earth atmosphere and burn up. With this speed – it corresponds to about 180.000 kilometers per hour – the flight from the Earth to the Moon takes only two hours. The best observation time are the hours after midnight.
Easter full moon on 19. April
At 5. April the new moon phase occurs at 10:50 o’clock. The Easter full moon shines on 19. April in the constellation Virgo near its main star Spica, with the exact opposition date being 1:12 p.m. Twice in April the moon is in earth distance. On 1. April separate him 405.580 kilometers from us and on 28. April then a thousand kilometers less. With 364.200 kilometers the moon is located at 16. April near the earth.
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The sun rises higher and higher in the zodiac. On 19. April morning it changes from the constellation of Pisces to that of Aries. One day later, it enters the zodiac sign of Taurus. Their midday altitude increases by ten degrees, day length grows by one and three-quarter hours.