Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, April 2nd and 3rd, 2018

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, April 2nd and 3rd.

The Sun sets at 7:22 PM; night falls at 9:00. Dawn begins at 4:56 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:34.

Venus, in Aries, is the sole bright planet in the evening sky. It appears about 94 percent illuminated, glows with minus 4th magnitude, is about 13 degrees high in the southwest and sets at 9:05 PM. Uranus, in Pisces, is becoming difficult to see naked eye. Binoculars or telescopes may pick out the 6th magnitude planet amid the darkening sky, about 7 degrees below Venus. Uranus sets at 8:34 PM.

Libra houses both the Moon and Jupiter. The 17-day-old Moon rises at 9:48 PM on Monday, appearing about 92 percent lit and blazing at minus 11th magnitude; it is best observed at 3:15 AM. Tuesday’s Moon rises at 10:50 PM, appearing a bit dimmer and slimmer, and best observed at 4:03 AM.

Jupiter rises at 10:33 PM, glowing with minus 2nd magnitude. This month, Jupiter brightens a bit and also appears slightly larger. Jupiter is positioned in Libra so that Monday’s Moon lies about 7 degrees above the planet, and Tuesday’s Moon about 7 degrees below. The Great Red Spot can be telescopically observed at 3:36 AM Tuesday.

By Dawn, Mars and Saturn, in Sagittarius, join the Moon and Jupiter. Yesterday, Mars was about the same distance from Earth as Earth is far from the Sun. Mars also brightens from 0.3 magnitude to minus 0.4. Mars and Saturn are in conjunction on April 2nd; they are around 1 degree apart on both nights.

Saturn rises at 2:13 AM, shining at 0.5 magnitude and 20 degrees high in the South; is lies about 47 degrees from Jupiter. Saturn also brightens slightly this month.

Red Planet Mars rises at 2:21 AM, appearing 88 percent lit and 8 arc-seconds in size, which provides marginal telescopic views.

The asteroid 4Vesta is also visible in the Dawn sky. Rising at 1:16 AM, it glows at 7th magnitude and appears as a tiny 0.4 arc-seconds in size. It lies within 2 degrees of the binocular star cluster M-23. Vesta is the fourth dwarf planet to be discovered. It orbits the Sun every 3.6 years, and is nearing opposition, which occurs in June. Like the first three asteroids, Vesta was temporarily named a planet, until astronomers realized their small size. Vesta is the brightest asteroid. It can be seen in binoculars from a dark, rural site. Vesta currently inhabits Sagittarius. Those seeking Vesta should consult magazine articles and web sites to identify the asteroid amid similar looking stars.

Hydra, the Water Snake, wends its way southward beneath Cancer and Leo. Two constellations ride on its back, Corvus and Crater. Corvus is known as either a Raven or a Crow, due to conflicting legends. One story depicts a snow-white Raven as Apollo’s messenger. When the Raven gives Apollo the especially bad news that his wife was unfaithful, the angry god changed the Raven’s feathers black (the color of contemporary ravens) and banished him to the sky. The other myth sees the Crow again as Apollo’s messenger. When the god asks for a cup (Crater) of water, the Crow departs, but is distracted by a fig tree, full of ripening fruit. The Crow took too long, returning with a water snake (Hydra) in his claws. The fuming deity exiled the bird, the snake and the cup to the night sky.

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