This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, April 8th, and Thursday, April 9th, written by Louis Suarato.
The post proxigean 99% illuminated, waning gibbous Moon rises at 8:03 p.m. Wednesday. Venus blazes high above the western horizon at -4.62 magnitude and 42% illuminated, and sets at 11:37 p.m. in the west-northwest. Look for the Pleiades star cluster 5 degrees below Venus. The reddish star to the left of Venus is Aldebaran, the brightest in the constellation Taurus. The first planet to rise overnight will be Jupiter, at 2:53 a.m. Thursday. Jupiter will be followed by Saturn at 3:11 a.m., and Mars at 3:34 a.m.in Capricornus.
New photos have revealed Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) is brightening and is developing a tail. Comet Atlas is currently reported to be 6.9 magnitude. It is expected to reach -1 magnitude as it reaches perihelion on May 31. Comets have been described as dirty snowballs, and as they approach the Sun on their annual orbit, they heat up, their ice melts, and they begin spewing dust. It’s that dust that creates meteor showers when Earth passes through them each year. There are many comets, but only a few are visible through small telescopes, and fewer through binoculars, and very few with the naked eye. Comet Atlas can be seen with binoculars. As it gets closer to the Sun, Comet Atlas will brighten further, and should be able to be seen with the naked eye. You can find Comet Atlas by hopping from Venus to its upper right to Capella, to its upper right to the comet, which will be about 60 degrees above the northwestern horizon at 9 p.m. in the constellation Camelopardalis. If you are under dark skies, you can find Comet Atlas also by fusing Polaris at the end of the Little Dipper. Follow the curve of the Little Dippers handle west to the comet. If you are under light polluted skies, you can find Polaris by using the two stars at the end of the bucket of the Big Dipper and following an imaginary line to Polaris. You’ll find Comet Atlas about 20 degrees to the upper right of Polaris. The distance from the horizon to the zenith, which is directly overhead, is 90 degrees. If you hold your fist out with your extended arm, like a fist bump to the sky, and look out over your arm to the sky, that is about 10 degrees.