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Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll

Watch as Venus sinks toward the horizon in the coming weeks

The moon wanes before reaching new phase on the 20th, when its visage is bleached out by the glare of the sun. The moon is still there, right in front of our eyes — and right in front of the sun. For people on the west coast and beyond, this is a special new moon, as it crosses directly in front of the Sun, causing an annular solar eclipse. Alas,  here on the east coast, the sun will have set before this happens, so we’ll miss out.

El Nath can’t hold Venus’ descent

Sunset reveals Venus ablaze high in the west, shining as bright as she gets at magnitude –4.7. And while the light of a planet is usually steady, but as the Evening Star nears the horizon, she begins to shimmer and dance as her light is refracted by Earth’s atmosphere. The planet is so dazzling that at first glance you could easily mistake her for a passing jetliner or even a UFO. Venus is in fact the Number 1 culprit behind reported sightings.

No, It’s Super Moon

Saturday’s full moon is commonly called the Flower Moon the Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon. But you can call it Super Moon. Not only does this full moon coincide with perigee — its nearest monthly approach to earth — but this is the closest perigee of the year. As a result, the full moon  will appear almost 10 percent bigger and brighter than normal.

Every night is Astronomy Day

Join the party Saturday, April 28, as people around the globe take aim at the heavens for Astronomy Day. This annual event was begun in 1973 by California astronomer Doug Berger, who organized a drive to set up telescopes along city sidewalks and other public spaces so that ordinary people could better appreciate the night sky. With four of the five naked-eye planets visible along with the near-first-quarter moon, the evening shouldn’t disappoint.

The new moon bodes well for this year’s Lyrid meteor shower

The new moon in the nether hours between Friday and Saturday leaves this weekend’s night skies clear for the annual Lyrid meteor shower, which peaks Saturday-Sunday.

How many stars can you spot with the lion’s perch?

This next week marks the last of this year’s Globe At Night citizen-science sessions, where ordinary folks like you and me lend an eye observing the night sky. This month’s target is the constellation Leo. Armed with a star chart downloaded from the group’s website, backyard astronomers count how many stars they can spot. You can submit results — from one or more locations — thru the 20th.

While its glow overwhelms some objects, it points to others

Friday’s full moon is commonly called the Grass Moon and the Egg Moon. As the first full moon following vernal equinox, this is also the Paschal Moon, used to pinpoint the dates of Passover and Easter.

Perched above the equator, the sun splits the day between light and dark

As darkness settles, Venus and Jupiter blaze in the west, and with the moon absent there is no brighter objects visible. After drawing together for weeks, Venus has pulled ahead. At week’s end they are four degrees apart, and the distance grows by about a half-degree each night. Both planets are climbing higher into view, heading from Aries toward Taurus and the Pleiades star cluster.

Venus and Jupiter are at their best, and the moon isn’t too shabby, either

As the sun dips toward the horizon, Venus and Jupiter appear high in the west. Venus, the brighter of the two, shines roughly five degrees below Jupiter at week’s end, but that gap is closing fast. They reach their nearest on Tuesday, shining side by side a mere three degrees apart. Visible for almost four hours after sunset, this is the best conjunction of Venus and Jupiter for years to come. After Tuesday, Venus pulls above Jupiter, appearing a little higher each night. Even so, the two remain close together through March.

Our sister planets are at peak display this week

This is a week for watching the planets. Mercury is emerging from the glow of twilight in its best appearance of the year. Higher above, Venus and Jupiter are drawing together on their way to an incredible conjunction. Mars reaches opposition and is at its largest and brightest for the year. Saturn’s there, too, a golden sentinel visible from 10pm until dawn.