Your Sky Guide To April 2023

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Your Sky Guide To April 2023

Spring has sprung—and so begins a magical month for sky-watchers! On April 13, 2023 the European Space Agency will launch its $1,1 billion JUICE spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, than its mighty moon Ganymede. It’s going to be a nervous watch. That also applies to April 20’s total solar eclipse, which eclipse-chasers will see in Western Australia, the Indian Ocean, Timor Leste and West Papua.

Add a famous meteor shower, a rare conjunction of Venus and the Pleiades and the rise of a full “Pink Moon”—and much more—and April should be quite the month for sky-watchers around the world.

Here’s everything you need to know about the celestial highlights for April 2023:

1. A total eclipse of the Sun

When: 02:37 Universal Time on Thursday, April 20, 2023 (9:47 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, April 19, 2023) (and live streaming on YouTube)

Where: Western Australia, Timor Leste and West Papua

Today is a New Moon, when our satellite is between Earth and the Sun. Since the Moon is about 400 times smaller than the Sun, but about 400 times closer, when the former appears to travel precisely across the latter it casts a narrow shadow across our planet. It happens roughly once every year or two—and it happens today, but only as seen from a path of totality just 25 miles wide that touches the tiny town of Exmouth in Western Australia, the southeastern Timor Leste and northwest West Papua. About 50,000 people will make the journey to view the spectacle in Australia while around 375,000 live in the path of totality. Expect stunning images.

2. A ‘Pink Moon’ Rising

When: Thursday, April 6, 2023 (consult the moonrise and moonset times for your location)

Where: Rising in the east

The view of a full Moon rising in the east just after sunset—draped in muted orange and yellow hues—is one of nature’s most beautiful monthly sights. Get to a second or third floor where you can see low to the eastern horizon—and be there bang on the moonrise time where you are. You’ll see it peek above the landscape about 10 minutes later. Bring binoculars for a jaw-dropping close-up.

3. A bright planet in the Pleiades

When: After sunset on Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Where: West

This month’s most spectacular conjunction in the post-sunset twilight sky will be between the sparkling Pleiades (or “Seven Sisters”) open cluster of stars and the bright planet Venus. The best-known open cluster and the brightest planet will be just 2.5° apart. You’ll need a clear view to the west and, preferably, a pair of binoculars, though it will be easily visible to the naked eye.

4. JUICE launches to Jupiter

When: 12:15 UTC (8:15 a.m. EDT) on Thursday, April 13, 2023

Where: European Spaceport, French Guiana (and live streaming on YouTube)

The European Space Agency’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission begins today. Cue a nail-biting launch on an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Spaceport in European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on South America’s northeastern coast. Then comes an eight-year cruise to Jupiter, where it will fly by the moons Europa and Callisto before going into orbit of Ganymede—the biggest moon in the solar system (bigger even than Mercury and Pluto) and the only moon we know of with a magnetic field.

5. Lyrids meteor shower

When: Late evening to dawn on on Friday-Saturday, April 21-22, 2023

Where: All-sky

It’s time for the first major meteor shower of 2023. Peaking as soon as it gets dark on Saturday in North America and in the early hours of Sunday in Europe, the Lyrids meteor shower thankfully occurs in virtually moonless night skies. Expect approximately 20 “shooting stars” per hour to be visible if the sky is clear. These meteors will seem to originate from the constellation Lyra.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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