Categories: Sky Reports
Sky Report: April 26 – May 2
I always emphasize the planets because they’re what changes the quickest in the sky, and for the next two weeks all five naked-eye planets are visible at one time or another.
Venus has been behind the sun since late last year, but it’s starting to peek out to the left, or east, of the sun, and it’ll be visible in the evening sky the rest of the year. This week it’s still nearly in line with the sun and it sets long before the sky is dark, but it’s so bright that you should spot it if you have a very low west-northwest horizon, and as always, binoculars are a great help. On May 1st it’s only 10° from the sun and it sets 45 minutes after the sun, so look almost immediately after sunset. Each day Venus is a little farther from the sun and sets a bit later, and if you don’t see it this week you will soon – certainly by the end of May. On what date will you first see it?
Because Venus is on the far side of the sun, telescopically it’s tiny and at full phase; late this year it’ll be closer and then it’ll be a large crescent.
Mercury is near Venus, and it also is on the far side of the sun and emerging from the sun’s glare. On the 26th Mercury is 2° to the upper right of Venus; you’ll need binoculars. On the following nights it’s progressively farther above Venus and easier to see. Watch it move substantially night-by-night.
Mars is half-way up the western sky at sunset and it sets around midnight. Mars is in the feet of the Gemini twins and to the upper right of Orion. It’s only as bright as the brighter stars. Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast, and the best time to see them is an hour or so before sunrise when they’ve risen high enough to clear local landmarks. Jupiter is by far the brightest thing in the sky, except the moon, and Saturn is 15° to the upper right of Jupiter and only 1/15th as bright. Last year Jupiter passed Saturn and the two planets were especially close together, but Jupiter orbits the sun faster and is pulling away from Saturn, slowly leaving it behind, and they won’t be this close again until 2040.
Image Credit: Fred Thornhill / Reuters
The Sky Report is presented as a public service by the Stellar Vista Observatory, a nonprofit organization based in Kanab, Utah, which provides opportunities for people to observe, appreciate, and comprehend our starry night sky. Additional information is at www.stellarvistaobservatory.org. Send questions and comments to