All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book NightScenes 2017.

Click on the monthly image to get a larger high resolution view of the night sky set for 53° N (Horncastle, England) but is usable for the UK and Eire.  All charts are set for the 1st of the month at 22:00 GMT (10pm) and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.

April 2017

Solar System quick summary

For most charts see the buttons at the top for various planets etc.. Charts & images in the text can be clicked to give a larger view.

Mercury is in the evening sky until the second week. Mars is viewable in the evening twilight and guides us to much fainter Ceres. Vesta continues to be a binocular object in Gemini/Cancer. Jupiter now comes to opposition and is therefore viewable all night in Virgo. Saturn is the next riser and lies in Sagittarius. Venus lingers low in the early morning twilight whilst much fainter Neptune struggles in the bright twilight, but may be glimpsed at the end of the month. Uranus is in conjunction with the Sun on the 14th and is not viewable. Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak may be an 7th or 8th mag binocular object this month. The Lyrids Meteor shower peaks on the  22nd and favourable. The Moon occults Gamma Librae on the 14th.

Main events


Mercury can be seen at the start of April with Mars to its upper left in the evening twilight. The chart, left, is set for an hour after sunset.  Mercury is at Greatest Eastern Elongation  on the 1st but it rapidly drops into the evening twilight, fading as it does so and is lost to view after April 12th.

Meanwhile, Mars is losing ground as it too gets lower into the twilight but the view at upper left can't show its motion against the background stars so the right hand chart shows Mars moving through the stars of Aries before finishing in Taurus. As it does so it creeps past faint Ceres (10th) so Mars helps to guide you to the ninth magnitude Dwarf Planet. By months end Ceres is too low in the twilight to continue waApril-mars-mn-hyades.jpgtching.

From mid month watch as Mars moves up and between M45, the Pleiades star cluster and the Hyades star cluster including Aldebaran. On the 26th Mars lies directly on a line between M45 and Aldebaran. The chart at left shows the motion of Mars from April 15th to 30th, note the crescent Moon joins them on the 28th and lies close to Aldebaran that evening for an added attraction. Look roughly towards the west at ~ 21:30 BST.    

April-jupiter.jpgBut now it's time for Jupiter to take to the stage as it reaches opposition on April 7th and it becomes viewable throughout the night. A small telescope will show the two main cloud belts and if you are lucky, a hollow where the 'Great Red spot', GRS, lies on the southern belt. Larger telescopes will start to show colour along with the actual redness (or should that really be orange!) of the GRS and at least a couple of other belts along with subtle detail in the atmosphere.


Binoculars will show up to the four bright 'Galilean' moons shown in an image taken on Feb 23rd 2016 (above) and watching their motions as they orbit around Jupiter can be a very rewarding venture. As you are watching out for Jupiter then keep an eye on it as Jupiter passes just under Theta Virginis on the 5th then five nights later the almost full Moon joins them as shown below.

Jupiter's path is shown until the 12th. The two eyepiece views above show Jupiter's moons on both dates at 22:00 BST simulated with a 26mm eyepiece and a SkyMax 180 Pro Maksutov telescope.


Meteor showers are worth looking out for when the moon is out of the way. The April Lyrids peak on the 22nd during the daytime, however look out for them on the nights of the 21st into 22nd and 22nd into 23rd especially as the moon rises just as morning twilight begins so plenty of dark sky to keep watch for meteors. Note that the chart at right shows the radiant moves slowly towards Lyra and slightly below Vega from Hercules from April 15th to 25th. It is perhaps a little ironic that most of the time the radiant actually lies in Hercules since the formalisation and adoption of the IAU constellation boundaries!

Also look out for the following:

Apr   6th  Moon lies to the right of Regulus

Apr   7th  Vesta lies close to 76 Geminorum tonight

Apr   9th  Moon lies close to and above Eta  Virginis

Apr 14th  Moon occults Gamma Librae in the early morning (see ocultations button in the menu)

Apr 15th  Moon lies above Antares in the morning sky

Apr 16th  Moon forms wide triangle with Antares and Saturn

Apr 17th  Moon lies to the left of Saturn and near Mu Sagittarii

Apr 21st   Crescent Moon forms triangle with Delta and Gamma Capricorni

Apr 23rd  Crescent Moon is lower right of Venus in bright morning twilight

  Clear skies and happy sky watching.


The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2017 AD


Webmaster  © Paul L Money 2017