Find out what to go out and look at this month
As we move towards the middle of April, the evening sky is dominated by two bright planets – Venus and Mars. These two planets will be the only ones visible in the evening sky, while the other planets can only be seen in the early morning or just after sunset.
At the beginning of the month, Mercury can be seen low in the west in the constellation of Pisces (The Fish) just after sunset. It will then move into the constellation of Aries (The Ram) before disappearing into the Sun’s glare towards the end of the month. Mercury will reach its greatest elongation in the East on Friday the 29th of April before making its way back towards the Sun.
Venus, on the other hand, can be found in the northwest, moving from the constellation of Aries to Taurus at the end of the first week of the month. Mars, however, is located in the north in the constellation of Gemini (The Twins).
Jupiter appears low in the east in the constellation of Pisces (The Fish), just before the end of the month in the early morning. Meanwhile, Saturn can be seen in the east in the constellation of Aquarius (The Water-Bearer) during the early morning hours.
Uranus can be found in between the constellations of Aries, Cetus (The Sea-Monster), and Taurus (The Bull) at the beginning of the month before disappearing in the Sun’s glare in the first week. Finally, Neptune can be spotted in the early morning sky in between the constellations of Pisces and Cetus.
|When It Rises Or Sets
|At the start of April, it sets at 06:47 pm (AWST), and by the middle of the month, it’ll be in the Sun’s glare
|At the start of April, it sets at 07:55 pm (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll set at 08:01 pm (AWST)
|At the start of April, it sets at 10:46 pm (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll set at 10:03 pm (AWST)
|In the Sun’s glare at the start of the month, and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 05:43 am (AWST)
|At the start of April, it rises at 03:27 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 01:46 am (AWST)
|At the start of April, it sets at 07:54 pm (AWST), and by the middle of the month, it’ll be in the Sun’s glare
|At the start of April, it rises at 05:16 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 03:26 am (AWST)
Alignments, Conjunctions And Occultations:
Conjunctions are a phenomenon that involves objects within our Solar System, as well as more distant objects such as stars. From the observer’s perspective, it appears as though multiple objects that aren’t close together, in reality, appear close in the sky.
On the other hand, an occultation is an event that occurs when one celestial body passes across the line of sight between an observer and another celestial body. One example of an occultation is a solar eclipse, which occurs when the Moon passes in front of the Sun from the perspective of the observer.
- 06/04/23 – Conjunction of The Moon, and Spica (Where to look)
- 10/04/23 – Conjunction of The Moon, and Antares (Where to look)
- 11/06/23 – Conjunction of Venus and The Pleiades Cluster (Where to look)
- 16/04/23 – Conjunction of The Moon, and Saturn (Where to look)
- 22/04/23 – Conjunction of The Moon, and Pleiades (Where to look)
- 23/04/23 – Conjunction of The Moon, and Venus (Where to look)
- 26/04/23 – Conjunction of The Moon, Mars, Castor, and Pollux (Where to look)
Astronomical Events This Month:
The Lyrids Meteor Shower:
On the night of April 22nd/23rd, while most of us are asleep, the Lyrids meteor shower will hit the Earth’s atmosphere at its peak. The Lyrids are the oldest observed meteor shower, with records of its observation dating back to at least 2,600 years ago in China. Described as “stars falling like rain” on the night of March 16th, 687 BC, the shower has become a minor one in recent times, with occasional surprises that keep it interesting.
The cause of the Lyrids is Comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher), a long-period comet that orbits the Sun every 415 years. The comet was discovered by A.E. Thatcher on April 5th, 1861, during its last pass around the Sun. The Lyrids are active between April 16th and 25th and appear to come from the constellation Lyra.
To observe the Lyrids, look towards the constellation Lyra in the early morning hours when it’s at its zenith, the highest point in the sky. Lyra will appear over the Perth hills around midnight, and it’s best to wait until around 03:00 am (AWST) when the constellation is at its highest point and the sky is at its darkest. Allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness for at least 15 minutes. While it’s best to go to a dark sky area outside of Perth, you can still enjoy a decent view by finding a park or large open space in Perth’s outskirts.
Fortunately, this year the Lyrids meteor shower won’t have to compete with the Moon as it’ll be a Waxing Crescent Moon, so there won’t be any extra light pollution. In a dark sky area, you should be able to see up to 18 meteors per hour.
Hybrid Solar Eclipse:
On April 20th, 2023, a rare astronomical event will occur over Exmouth, Western Australia, Timor Leste, and parts of Indonesia – a Total Solar Eclipse. For 62 seconds, the Moon will fully obscure the Sun. During a Total Solar Eclipse, the Moon blocks out the full disc of the Sun, which enables astronomers to study the Sun’s Corona and Chromosphere. Both parts of the Sun are normally invisible due to the extreme brightness of the Sun’s surface. There are four types of Solar Eclipses: Total, Annular, Partial, and Hybrid and the Ningaloo 2023 Solar Eclipse is the rare “Hybrid Eclipse”. A hybrid eclipse is a type of solar eclipse that looks like an annular solar eclipse or a total solar eclipse, depending on the observer’s location along the central eclipse path.
Observers in Exmouth will witness a Total Solar Eclipse during the 62 seconds of darkness as the Moon casts a 41km wide path over Western Australia’s northwest Cape into darkness. During totality, the sky will become dark with stars and planets being visible, the air temperature drops, and animals may change their behaviour. Unfortunately for Perth, our position on the Earth means we’ll see a 70% Partial Solar Eclipse here. If you’re not heading up to Exmouth, Carnarvon, or Onslow, we’ll be live streaming the eclipse with our friends at TimeAndDate.com from Exmouth, and we’ll have our own eclipse event at the Observatory so you can safely see this rare astronomical phenomenon.
|Time in Exmouth*
|Partial Eclipse begins
|20th of April at 02:04:31 am
|20th of April at 10:04:31 am
|Full Eclipse begins
|20th of April at 03:29:48 am
|20th of April at 11:29:48 am
|20th of April at 03:30:17 am
|20th of April at 11:30:17 am
|Full Eclipse ends
|20th of April at 03:30:46 am
|20th of April at 11:30:46 am
|Partial Eclipse ends
|20th of April at 05:02:34 am
|20th of April at 01:02:34 pm
Things To Look At This Month:
The Leo Triplet, also known as the M66 Group, is a small cluster of galaxies located in the Leo constellation, situated approximately 35 million light-years away from Earth. This trio of galaxies comprises Messier 65 (NGC 3623), Messier 66 (NGC 3627), and the Hamburger Galaxy (NGC 3628). To observe the best views of this galaxy cluster, it’s recommended to venture out to the countryside with a telescope. To plan an astronomy trip, it’s worth checking out the Astrotourism WA Map.
Messier 65 is an intermediate spiral galaxy, slightly smaller than our Milky Way, with a diameter of 90,000 light-years. Although star formation is limited in this galaxy, there have been recent star-forming activities in its spiral arms. The ratio of old stars to new stars is significantly high in this galaxy. Messier 66, another intermediate spiral galaxy in the group, appears slightly larger than M65, with a diameter of 95,000 light-years. It lies closer to us than M65, at a distance of 31 million light-years. The galaxy’s spiral shape features a weak bar in the centre and loosely wound arms. It has striking dust lanes and bright star clusters along sweeping spiral arms. Between 1973 and 2016, five supernovae have been detected in this galaxy, with SN 2016cok being the most recent Type IIa supernova seen in 2016 by the All-Sky Survey Automated Survey for Supernovae.
The Hamburger Galaxy, also known as Sarah’s Galaxy, is an unbarred spiral galaxy, situated around 35 million light-years away. Its most remarkable feature is the broad and obscuring band of dust located along the outer edge of its spiral arms, which effectively transects the galaxy from the view of Earth. There is an ongoing debate about whether an x-shaped bulge visible in multiple wavelengths means that the galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy, with the bar seen end-on. Simulations have shown that bars often form in disk galaxies during interactions and mergers, which could be the case for the Hamburger Galaxy, as it is known to be interacting with its two giant neighbours, Messier 65 and Messier 66.
The Eight-Burst Planetary Nebula (NGC 3132), also known as the Southern Ring Nebula, is a stunning celestial object located in the constellation Vela. Spanning 0.4 light-years, it is 2,000 light-years away from Earth. Despite its name, a planetary nebula has nothing to do with planets; instead, it gets its name from its rounded shape, which is created by huge shells of gas ejected by a dying star. The expanding shells are moving away from the central star at a rapid pace of 15 km per second.
The nebula contains two stars in close proximity, with the white dwarf that created the nebula being the fainter of the two. The white dwarf is extremely hot, with a temperature of 100,000 K, and has already shed its outer layers. The intense ultraviolet radiation that emanates from the white dwarf causes the nebula to glow brightly, creating a stunning visual display. Captivating images of this spectacular object reveal its intricate details and intricate structure, making it a popular target for both amateur and professional astronomers alike.
Omega Centauri, also known as NGC 5139, is the largest and brightest globular cluster in the Milky Way galaxy, and the second-largest known globular cluster overall. Only Mayall II, located in the Andromeda Galaxy, surpasses Omega Centauri in mass, roughly twice its size. Located in the constellation Centaurus, this naked-eye object appears as a fuzzy blob when viewed through binoculars.
Containing at least 3 million stars, Omega Centauri boasts a diameter of approximately 150 light-years, and its stars are estimated to be around 12 billion years old. The average distance between stars at the cluster’s centre is around 10% of a light-year or more than 100 times the diameter of our solar system. There is a possibility that it is a dwarf galaxy that was captured and disrupted by the Milky Way galaxy.
Recent measurements of star movement by the Hubble Space Telescope have suggested the existence of a black hole at the core of the cluster. With such a rich history and complexity, Omega Centauri is a fascinating subject of study for both amateur and professional astronomers alike.
The Jewel Box:
Located in the Crux (Southern Cross) Constellation, the Jewel Box (NGC 4755) is a stunning open cluster that is easily visible to the naked eye. It is situated 6,440 light-years away from Earth and spans an impressive 14 light-years in diameter. With just over 100 stars, the Jewel Box is considered a small cluster, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in youth and brilliance.
At an estimated age of just 14 million years, it is one of the youngest clusters known to astronomers, and it is home to some of the brightest stars in the Milky Way. These supergiants shine with such intensity that the red, white, and blue stars in the centre of the cluster are often likened to the lights of a traffic signal. Whether viewed through a telescope or binoculars, the Jewel Box is a true gem in the night sky that never fails to dazzle and delight stargazers.