A Setting Bull with Mars and the Moon

Taurus the Bull is setting shortly after the Sun and this week catch a young crescent Moon with Mars in this fading winter constellation. Taurus is right at the horizon and look for its “V” shaped Hyades right after sunset in the western sky. If you have a telescope, a special event to see on Tuesday with Jupiter and Europa is worth checking out.  Here is your guide to the sky for April 24 to 30, 2017…

Sun – Earth – Moon

Sunrise this week is at 5:31 am and sunset at 7:36 pm and the Sun has moved from Pisces into Aries. New Moon takes place on Wednesday at 8:16 am and the Moon is at perigee on Thursday.  On Thursday and Friday night, look for the young crescent Moon in Taurus the Bull.  It is just below the Pleaides (Seven Sisters or Subaru) on Thursday, and Friday it is 6 degrees north of the Moon.

Planets in the Sky

Mercury continues to be lost in the glare of the Sun this week.  Mars is  in moving closer to red Aldebaran, by the end of the week it will look like the bull has two “red eyes”.  It sets around 9:45 pm this week – so look for it early in the evening.    Jupiter is in the eastern sky at sunset and if you have a telescope this week on Tuesday, watch as Europa come out from behind Jupiter and then transits across its surface.  It will re-appear at 10:28 pm and start crossing Jupiter at 11:17pm.  Saturn rises in the eastern sky around 11:45pm.  Venus reaches its greatest illuminated extent (largest crescent) on Sunday morning rising at 4:20 am.  Try seeing the crescent with a small telescope.

Jupiter with Europa shadow through small telescope in 2016

Constellations – Patterns in the Sky

“There be dragons!”  This famous phrase was sometimes used long ago as a catch phrase for the unknown. Dragons have captured our imagination, and one is visible in our skies year round here in Maine, Draco the Dragon.  Look for this “backward number 5” shaped constellation between Ursa Major (Great Bear or Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor (Lesser Bear or Little Dipper) in the norther skies.  It is one of the larger constellations in the northern skies and represents Lagon in Greek mythology, a dragon that guarded Hesperiedes’ garden, in particular the golden apples.  As one of his many labors, Hercules was tasked with stealing a golden apple from this tree which was a wedding present from Zeus to Hera.  Hercules killed the dragon with a poisoned arrow, and Hera was saddened by this and placed it in the sky to honor the dragon for protecting her apples.

Starchart April 27 at 8:30 pm – Courtesy of Heavens-Above.com

Satellites to See…

Check out a couple morning satellites this week. Tiangong 1 is visible on Tuesday morning from 4:11am to 4:15am moving from west to east.  See it again on Wednesday from 4:33 to 4:37 am moving from southwest to southeast.  If you prefer evening viewing try Thursday evening and check out Terra from 10:01 pm to 10:07 pm moving from east to north. Or on Sunday night look for the Cosmos 2333 rocket from 9:46 pm to 9:55 pm moving from south to north.

As always there are numerous things to see in our skies here in Maine, so get out there and look up.   Happy stargazing and keep your eye on the sky!


Shawn Laatsch

About Shawn Laatsch

Shawn Laatsch is the director of the Emera Astronomy Center and Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine. He started his astronomy education career in 1984 and has directed planetariums in university and science center facilities, taught undergraduate astronomy courses, and given numerous lectures around the globe. He serves as President (2017 & 2018) of the International Planetarium Society, Inc. the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals. Shawn has a passion for sharing astronomy and stargazing with people of all ages.