April: Follow the Moon – Sky & Telescope
As you’ll learn in this month’s Sky Tour astronomy podcast, the Moon circles around the entire sky each month and — along the way — passes by many bright stars and planets.
For example, before dawn on April 6th, you’ll find the crescent Moon about 5° — half of a fist — below the planet Saturn. Off to the left is much brighter Jupiter. One day later, on the 7th, the Moon has slid to the left and is now 5° below Jupiter. Once it reappears in the evening sky, it passes near the bright star Aldebaran on the 15th, sitting below Mars on the 16th, and slides just to the left of the bright star Pollux on the 19th.
It might be spring, but most of winter’s bright stars are still hanging around in the hours after sunset. In the west, Orion is getting quite low. Above the distinctive horizontal row of three stars that form the hunter’s belt is reddish star Betelgeuse and below it is the icy white star Rigel.
To the belt’s lower left, by about two fists, is Sirius, the brightest star in the nighttime sky. This beacon marks the collar of one of Orion’s hunting dogs, Canis Major. The other one, Canis Minor, is a little higher up. Look for its somewhat dimmer anchor star, called Procyon.
High up and almost overhead around 9 o’clock is the distinctive constellation Leo, the Lion. He’s facing to the right, with his head and mane forming a big backward question mark that’s a little bigger than your clenched fist. At the bottom of that pattern is Leo’s brightest star, Regulus, meaning “little king”. You can also imagine these stars as a giant sickle, the sharp, long-bladed hand tool that farmers once used to harvest grain.
These are just a few of the highlights covered during April’s engaging and informative Sky Tour astronomy podcast. Just head outside, then download or stream it to your audio device — and you’ll get a personally guided tour of what’s visible this month.