With clear sunny skies and temperatures gradually rising, we are now in the transition period towards the summer season here in the UAE. Wondering what’s going to be up in the sky for the new month? The following is a list of astronomical events for April 2018. All dates and times were given in UAE Local Time.
April 2, 2018: Mars – Saturn Conjunction
The red planet Mars and the ringed planet Saturn will appear close to each other in the sky in the early morning hours of these days. The two planets will share the same right ascension (about 18h 38m) with an apparent angular separation of about 1.3°. The conjunction will be seen at the east-southeastern horizon from 1:30 AM until sunrise. Both planets will be situated in the constellation Sagittarius (the archer). Mars and Saturn would look like a fairly bright red-orange and yellow-orange “stars” respectively. This will be a good opportunity for selenophiles and planet gazers to observe and image the said celestial objects.
April 4, 2018: Moon – Jupiter Close Approach
The Moon and the largest planet Jupiter will appear close to each other in the sky on the early morning hours of this day. It will be seen at the east-southeastern horizon from around 9:45 PM until sunrise. These celestial objects will be situated in the faint constellation Libra (the scales). The Waning Gibbous Moon will be about 4° west of Jupiter. Jupiter would look like a bright white “star”. This will be a good opportunity for selenophiles and planet gazers to observe and image the said celestial objects.
April 8, 2018: Moon – Mars – Saturn Close Approach
The Moon and the planets Mars and Saturn will appear close to each other in the sky on the early morning hours of this day. It will be seen at the east-southeastern horizon from 1:30 AM until sunrise. All celestial objects will be situated in the constellation Sagittarius (the archer). The Last Quarter (Half) Moon will be about 3.6° west-southwest of Mars or 5.4° southwest of Saturn. Mars would look like a bright reddish dot while Saturn will appear as a brilliant yellow-orange “star” situated 3° north of Mars. This will be a good opportunity for selenophiles and planet gazers to observe and image the said celestial objects.
April 16, 2018: New Moon
On this day, the moon will not be visible as it will be situated on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, in the constellation of Cetus (the sea monster). With no moonlight glaring much of the night sky, this is the best time to observe the deep sky objects throughout the night. It is predicted that the lunar phase will occur on this day. However, the month transition from Radjab to Shaban shall take place on the same date in accordance with the Hijri Calendar 1439.
April 22-23: Lyrid Meteor Shower
On the late evening hours of April 22 until the dawn of April 23, the peak of an average meteor shower known as the Lyrids will take place. It is projected to bring up to 10-20 meteors per hour under completely dark, cloudless skies. These meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Lyra (the lyre) at the sky’s northeastern portion but can be observed anywhere in the sky from 11 PM all the way through dawn. The space debris from comet Thatcher entering Earth are the ones responsible for this meteor shower. Fortunately, the Waxing Crescent Moon will already set at the time the radiant rises, having very little no moonlight to interfere which will give a clear view of the meteor shower. A must have in observing this astronomical phenomenon is patience; lots of them and comfort.
April 29, 2018 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation
The smallest planet in the Solar System, Mercury will appear at its highest point just a few moments before sunrise. The maximum extent of angular separation from the Sun as seen from Earth will be at around 13° (in the UAE). This means Mercury can be only seen up to 13° above the western horizon before sunrise, from around 4:45 AM until it gets washed out into view by the sun’s brilliant glare at around 5:30 AM. Though it is moderately bright, observing it will be quite of a challenge from the fact that Mercury is situated near the Sun in the sky.
April 30, 2018: Full Moon
Situated on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun, the moon will be fully illuminated (100%) on this day. For selenophiles (people who love the moon), this is the best time to observe all the surface features of this celestial object, including the craters and maria. It will start appearing at around 7:20 PM (at the eastern horizon) as it rises, and can be seen throughout the night until sunrise positioned in the faint constellation of Libra (the scales). Because of its full illumination during this phase, it will not be a good time for deep-sky observation with the entire moonlight glaring out most of the faint celestial objects.
In the UAE and other regions in the Northern Hemisphere, April is springtime and considered a transition period towards the hot summer season. Many brilliant prominent winter constellations and deep-sky objects will be seen during early evening hours such as the nebulae in Orion constellation (Great Orion, Flame, and Horsehead), and multiple galaxies like the ones in Ursa Major (Bode and Cigar galaxies) and the Leo Triplet. The “morning/evening star” Venus can be seen in the western portion of the sky few moments after sunset. Planets Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will be visible in the early morning hours after until sunrise. The other ones (Mercury, Uranus, and Neptune) are either barely or not visible few minutes before sunrise, depending on their respective apparent positions in the sky. For this month, sunrise occurrences range between 5:48 AM and 6:14 AM while sunsets shall happen between 6:38 PM and as late as 6:54 PM.
Have a warm and pleasant April, everyone! Clear skies!
The Orion, Flame, and Horsehead Nebulae, Leo Triplet and the Bode and Cigar Galaxies taken from Al Sadeem Observatory
Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2018.html
Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: http://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2018&month=1&maxdiff=4 #datesel
Islamic calendar 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from Calendar.sk: https://calendar.zoznam.sk/islamic_calendar-en.php?ly=2018
Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, March 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=4&year=2018