What's coming up in the northern hemisphere's night sky in the month of 25 April to 1 May 2022.


Link to Star Diary episode.


Chris Bramley Hello and welcome to Star Diary, the podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at night Magazine. You can subscribe to the print edition of the magazine by visiting www.skyatnightmagazine.com or to a digital edition by visiting iTunes or Google Play.

Ezzy Pearson Greetings listeners and welcome to Start Diary, Radio Astronomy Guide to the best things to see in the night sky, covering the week 25th April to the 1st May. I'm news editor Ezzy Pearson and I'm joined on the podcast today by our reviews editor Paul Money. Hello Paul!

Paul Money Hiya Ezzy! How's things?

Ezzy Pearson I'm doing well. Great to hear from you again. So what can we expect to see in the sky this week?

Paul Money Well, you know what we've said in the past? I think these things always happen to ungodly hours, don't they? And I have to say the first half of the week, it's really all happening in the morning sky. It would be. So this is a time to set your alarms once again. And I am talking about around about four to five am in the morning. But it;s twilight time, you see. So when we get in at the end of April, beginning to May sort of thing, you know, that's about the time is happening because of course the clocks change, etc. So, yeah, so it's a parade of planets. We really have a great time at the moment. If you like planets and don't mind early morning because we have four planets on show in a line near enough. Now it depends on what time you want to get up. But if you get up, say about four-ish and look out and you need to be looking between east and southeast, so about east southeast is the midpoint, and that's where you'll find Mars. But if you look at four o'clock, Mars and Saturn are up and the sky's a bit darker. So at least you'll have a few stars, especially Capricornus and Aquarius, which is where most of the action is taking place. But if you then allow and watch the Twilight gradually brighten, the Moon will rise and is below Saturn. Now that's a quite decent crescent moon. So, yeah, but it's very low. It's below the ecliptic now at this particular part of its orbit, so that means it rises later. So it mainly rises when it's closer to the brighter part of twilight. So you have to bear that in mind over the next few days. So is below Saturn on the 25th and with miles to the left of Saturn, So it makes a nice - it almost makes a right angled triangle in actual fact. So, you know, it's just something to look out for. But the Moon doesn't rise until around about 4:40-ish. Now, to bear in mind, it does depend on where you are in the country. If you further north, it will be lighter, so the skies will be lighter as well, so it'll have swamped most of the stars by then. And if you further south, you've got to wait a little bit longer for them to rise. But if you wait about four fifty in the morning, the n you'll have Saturn, Mars, Venus and Jupiter. And of course, Venus and the Moon near enough rise. At the same time, there are very similar elevation above the horizon, so the rise near enough at the same time on the 25th. And if you give it just a few more minutes, then you'll have Jupiter rise as well. Obviously, Venus will be the brightest of all four planets, but you've got this nearly almost a line up arcing down towards the horizon. So that's a nice parade of planets. It's just a shame. Neptune's there, but it's so find in the bright twilight you actually see it. You know, it's going to be around about magnitude eight. So, yeah, pretty difficult against a bright twilight, but if you if you do see it, then shout out to us as such. So it's really happening over the next few days because I've mentioned the moon is below Saturn. What we'll find is the Moon then the next morning is below Mars. But remember, it's below Mars. It's lower, so you have to wait a bit longer. So we're talking about five o'clock now and the sky will be brighter. So there we are. The crescent... It's even thinner because of course, he's heading towards new. And interesting enough that we find that this will be the second new moon of the month. You don't hear many of them being mentioned, do you? It's always about the full moons and two full moons in a month. Well, this month I believe we've actually got two new moons, but we don't really observe them, do we? Until there's an eclipse. So it passes us by that. There's actually two new moons, do we? But I'll be a bit later on in the week when we get that new moon. So the Moon is getting thinner and thinner and thinner, but is getting lower and lower on the horizon. You have to wait a bit longer for it to actually rise. So, you know, this is the problem. The sky will be getting brighter. So the next morning on the 26th, it'll be below Mars, very low around on, say, look around about 5am at all and you'll find the vast majority of the stars will by now be washed out. But also keep an eye on Jupiter and Venus as they get higher with each passing day. You'll see Venus is creeping closer to Jupiter, so Jupiter is pulling out from the solar glare but Venus is heading back. And so they're destined to meet up, but tune in towards the end of the week in a few moments when we'll deal with that. So the next morning, we're talking about the 27th now and again you have to give it another 10 minutes. So 5:10 the sky is brighter, but I really thin Crescent Moon is directly below Venus, and they form a lovely triangle with Jupiter as well to the upper left. So a really great sequence of events for three mornings on the trot, sort of thing. Hopefully you never know whether we have clear skies, you know what it's like. And of course because we're in the early morning sky, keep an eye on Venus and Jupiter, because although we've got the moon really below below them in bright twilight, you have to wait now another 0 minutes to 5:10 in the morning sky is getting brighter. It's going to wash out virtually all the main bright stars. But keep an eye on Venus and Jupiter because as Jupiter is pulling out from the solar glare, so Saturn is gradually moving in and they're destined to meet. They're going to join together later in the week. So we'll tune in and go back to that in a short while. So catch the Moon then it will have three mornings where it goes past these planets Saturn, Mars and now Jupiter and Saturn on the 27th. But make sure you do all these observations and keep an eye out, making sure you don't catch the sun as it rises. The last thing we want you to do is do any damage to your eyes, but this should be all right to catch it.

Ezzy Pearson Yeah, that's a very important point. Always make sure that you're careful of the Sun. I think the 27th is also probably a good one to look out for because Venus and Jupiter are both going to be very big and bright and that they're really obvious in the night sky. So even if you are just a beginner astronomer, that's a good one to look out for.

Paul Money And I mean, they are the brightest two planet. So what more could we ask for, hey Ezzy? So now that was in the morning sky. Hey, we've got something in the evening. Yeah, but we all I would look forward to this time of year because around about March, April and May, we've got the chance to have Mercury in the evening sky. Doesn't always work out, sometimes early. Sometimes it's later. But April the 28th Mercury will be directly below the Pleiades or Messier 45, or the seven sisters cluster, depending on how you want to call it, it'll be directly below it in Twilight. But binoculars will show the cluster and this little planet. So if you get the planets in the morning sky, you'll also got Mercury in the evening sky as well. And the thing about this is that on the 28th, you've got Mercury below it. But it's quickly moving past to the left of the Pleiades star cluster over the next few days. So just as we saw the Moon going past the planet over several days from the 25th to the 27th, so we'll see Mercury go past the Pleiades in the evening sky. So something for the evening viewers to look out for and it'll be closest to the cluster on the 29th. And we're looking about, say, about 40 minutes after sunset and roughly west northwest now, something we hadn't mentioned, but you know, when we're looking at these things there, often towards the horizon. So it really is important to have a unclutered clear horizon to actually view these. If you've got Buildings or trees or anything like that in the way that it's worth trying to find a site where you can actually observe these clearly without anything getting in the way. So there we are. We mentioned the new Moon earlier, its on April 30th. I mean, nobody better observe it, but it is the second new moon. So I just think.. it just tickles me that it's the second new moon, and it doesn't hardly ever get a mention when you got two new moons in a month, sort of thing. So towards the end of the week now, and so we go back to that morning conjunction and it really is a gorgeous conjunction between Jupiter and Venus. And basically over the next couple of days, they close in. They're at the closest on May the 1st, and we're talking about less than half a degree. I think it worked out as about 21 arc minutes actually apart from each other. So that'll be a really good view. And this is one of those circumstances where it's worth looking with the naked eye. You should see them separated with the naked eye, it'll be a grand view and good old fashioned 10x50 binoculars. And of course, if you got a telescope, you'll be able to home in and see them like that as well. So this is a great opportunity to visual and photograph the actual event as well. So this conjunction on May the 1st is absolutely brilliant, but that's in the morning sky. Remember, we're talking about 5:00 a.m. bright twilight, but these are very bright planets. We haven't quite finished yet because wait for that evening. So we've had the events in the morning sky, then wait for the evening. We've gotten Mercury just to the left of the Pleiades in fact it's level with the Pleiades. So to the left of the actual cluster itself, the crescent moon now joins them. But you have to catch that very early, so be careful. Make sure you wait for the sunset, but keep an eye on that area sort of thing. So have a look west northwest. Just look to see if you can see the really thin crescent moon. I think like twenty four hours old or something like that, but Very, very young. You know, I like really young ones are really difficult to say, but it's in a bright twilight. It'll be below right of Mercury and the Pleiades.

Now the latest information I've got, which could be wrong because these things change so rapidly, we might have a binocular comet. Comet C 2021 03 PanSTARRS and it'll be to the right of the Pleiades, so you'll likely have a line-up: Mercury, the Pleiades and then a bit further to the right. PanSTARRS. It will have passed the Sun at this stage. It hasn't done it as I'm recording this, as we're recording this, so it could disintegrate. You know what comets are like that, fickle things.

Ezzy Pearson It's so hard to say with comets, you know, it could be absolutely spectacular. It could stay in one piece, but not really do anything interesting. Or it could just completely fall apart and into nothing - like you can never tell. And I think that to me, that's what is really interesting about comets because they're like so much of astronomy is so predictable, you know exactly what's going to happen, like 2000 years in advance, almost sometimes. And then you've got these comments that come along and they're so fickle and they're a surprise, and you never quite know what's going to happen. So they're sort of slightly interesting dynamic in astronomy.

Paul Money Yes, exactly. I mean, we are so used to the clockwork astronomy, aren't we? But this is one of those variables that you can't predict properly. So I'll be looking out there if we got a clear skies or things is the first of May you want to be looking around at 9:15, so the skies will be bright. But of course, even if you don't get the Moon as they get lowered to the horizon, the sky will get dark, so it'll increase your chance. If the comet survived in these binocular viewable, you might just get it. So yeah, fingers crossed this one way to stop the wheat, finish the way and have a hunt for a comet, as well as a planet, the innermost planet next to this wonderful star cluster. And if you do it early enough, you might even get this really slim crescent Moon as well. But a week of events, I mean, there's a lot going on, you know, and there's never nothing going on these.

Ezzy Pearson There's always something.

Chris Bramley Yeah, exactly.

Ezzy Pearson Yes, I think that's also a nice end to end with a comet after a week that's kind of dominated almost by the planets. And we have some absolutely great line ups, as you mentioned. So thank you very much for joining us today, Paul, and thank you very much for telling us what's coming up at the night sky.

Paul Money It's a pleasure. Thank you.

Ezzy Pearson If you want to find out even more spectacular sights that will be gracing the night sky this month, be sure to pick up a copy of BBC Sky at Night magazine, where we have a 16 page pull up sky guide with a full overview of everything worth looking up for. Whether you like to look at the Moon, the planets or the deep sky, whether you use binoculars, telescopes or never ask, our guide has got you covered with detailed star charts to help you track your way across the night sky from all of us here at BBC Sky at Night Magazine.


Chris Bramley Goodbye. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Star Diary podcast from the makers of BBC Scotland magazine. For more of our podcast, visit our website at Sky at Night Magazine Dot Com or head to Acast, iTunes or Spotify.


Ezzy Pearson is the News Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.