Friday, April 1
Saturday, April 2
Sunday, April 3
Monday, April 4
Tuesday, April 5
Wednesday, April 6
Thursday, April 7
Friday, April 8
Saturday, April 9
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Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you must have a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and the even larger and deeper Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts effectively.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, or the more detailed and descriptive Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Can a computerized telescope take their place? I don't think so not for beginners, anyway, and especially not on mounts that are less than top-quality mechanically. As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury is fading out (from magnitude +2 to +4 this week) and disappearing down into the sunset as it nears inferior conjunction.
Venus (magnitude 3.9) is still in the morning sky, shining low in the east-southeast as dawn brightens.
Mars remains out of sight behind the glare of the Sun until summer.
Jupiter is out of sight in conjunction with the Sun.shadow?"" credits="Christopher Go" width="" height="" align="right"]
Saturn (magnitude +0.4, in Virgo) comes to opposition on the night of April 3rd. It glows low in the east-southeast as twilight fades, rises higher in the southeast during evening, and shines highest in the south after midnight. During the evening, look for twinkly Spica 11° below it and brighter Arcturus nearly 30° to its left.
With Saturn so close to opposition, its rings are now displaying the Seeliger effect, whereby they brighten for a few days around opposition due to backscattering of sunlight back toward the Sun and Earth. The solid icy ring particles backscatter, but Saturn's cloudtops do not (or not as much).
The rings are 9° from edge on. Also in a telescope, Saturn's months-old white spot has spread into a light band far around the planet, as seen here. See how many of Saturn's satellites you can identify in your scope using our Saturn's Moons tracker.
Uranus and Neptune are hidden in the glow of dawn.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon including the words up, down, right, and left are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
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