Stargazing • April 2020

by Roger Davies


T he Sky at Night over Kidlington.

In April 2020, don’t miss the glorious sight of Venus hanging in the western sky at dusk, so bright it is easily visible before sunset.

Early April's full Moon was a so-called 'Supermoon'. The Moon follows an oval shaped orbit around the Earth, when the Earth-Moon separation is minimised the Moon looks bigger. On April 7th 2020 the Moon was as close to the Earth as it will be at any Full Moon this year — a Supermoon — and it indeed looked big and bright. On April 7th the Moon rose at 1900 and each day it will rise later by about 90 minutes.

As the seasons change the days are lengthening, the time from sunrise to sunset lengthens by roughly four minutes per day throughout April, so by early May the days are two hours longer than they are in early April.

The arrival of Spring also brings the Spring constellations — rising early in the night is Leo, lead by an asterism in the shape of a sickle (the lion’s head & mane) followed by the triangle forming the lion's back & tail. At the base of the sickle is the brightest star, the blue-white Regulus, meaning 'little king', 79 light years away this star is 3.8 times more massive than the Sun and is in a binary system with a white dwarf companion.

In the middle of the month early risers with a good eastern horizon can see three planets in the pre-dawn sky close to the Moon.

On April 14th 2020 the waning half Moon is followed by Jupiter (brightest), Saturn & Mars (you can spot it because its red!).

By April 16th 2020 the Moon has moved to the other side of Mars.

For real insomniacs April 21st to 23rd is the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower, best seen in the early hours, as about 20 meteors per hour appear from the direction of the constellation Lyra. This small constellation can be found by spotting Vega, it’s brightest star (and the third brightest visible from these latitudes), which is about 60 degrees above the ENE horizon at 3.00am.

Happy stargazing!

If you want to see even more in the night sky, a good interactive star chart can be found here.


SEE ALSO by Roger Davies:
Stargazing • June 2020
Stargazing • May 2020
Stargazing • April 2020

Roger Davies is a resident of the village of Kidlington, Oxfordshire.

Roger is the Philip Wetton Professor of Astrophysics and Director of the Hintze Centre for Astrophysical Surveys at the Department of Physics, University of Oxford,