Astrophiz 168: Dr Ian Musgrave’s April SkyGuide



In Australia Daylight Saving ends on April 2nd

April Moon Phases

Full moon April 6th

So for those out camping over Easter, you’ll have very nice dark skies to see lots of clusters and nebulae as well as Venus and Mars in the evening and Saturn in the morning without any interference from the moon.

Last Quarter April 13th

Perigee moon April 16th

New Moon April 20th 

First Quarter (apogee) Moon appears in evening skies on April 28th.

In the Evening Skies

Mercury is a very difficult target even for those with very low western horizons.

Venus is very easily observed in the West in the early evening just after sunset for an hour and a half.

Over April Venus is moving closes and closer to the iconic open cluster the Pleiades and between the 10th and the 12th Venus and the Pleiades close together will make great binocular viewing.

On the 23rd Venus is just 3 degrees from the crescent moon.

Mars is still prominent, but is shrinking and fading and moving from the Taurus constellation into Gemini.

At the start of April is close to the open cluster M35 and within binocular distance from the 1st to the 4th.

On the 26th Mars is close to the waxing moon.

The Emu dark constellation is always great to see around 10pm when the sky is fully dark.

In the Morning Skies

Jupiter is lost to view in evening skies and won’t turn up in morning skies till May.

Saturn is climbing higher and higher in the morning skies, easily seen an hour before sunrise

On the 16th and 17th Saturn is near the thin crescent moon

Orion the Hunter is sinking to the West and Scorpius is rising in the East

April’s Signature Event ~ A Total Solar Eclipse

A Total Solar Eclipse in remote Western Australia is on the April 20, but all accomodation and campsites have been fully booked out years in advance, so if you’re not booked in, you’re best to see totality happen by watching online. 

Other parts of Australia will experience a partial solar eclipse.

On April 20, the shadow of the moon will graze in a 40-kilometre-wide track

over one of the most beautiful parts of the world – the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo region near Exmouth. 

The website at Ningalooeclipse-DOT-com is highly recommended.

For Western Australia start to look about 10am

Perth residents will see 71% of the sun covered at 11:20am

Darwin gets 80% of the sun covered at 1:50pm

For Central Australia and Northern Territory their partial eclipse begins around 12 noon.

For Eastern States it’s round about 1pm, with only a small percentage of the sun covered.


Specialist astronomical solar glasses from astronomical supply shops are OK for viewing,

and NEVER used ’smoked glass’ or ‘filters’ or you will lose your vision.

Ian describe how to make a pinhole projector to safely observe an image of the eclipse which is projected onto a flat surface 

Further safe observing tips can be found on Ian’s Astroblog at astrobloggerDOTblogspotDOTcom

Ian’s Tangent

The Colours of Space

Our eyes can only see the visible spectrum ROYGBIV 

Bees can see in the ultra violet.

The famous Hubble images are obtained by using filters and assigning colours using the Hubble Pallette.

Most meteorites do not have striking colours, some comets and meteors can have spectacular colours.

Gases in space can predominantly be Hydrogen, Helium, Methanol and Ethanol, and many complex molecules have been observed and identified.

The Orion Nebula’s colour is due to ethanol, and Ian goes on to explain how the spectacular colours of space are out of this world.

Next Episode:

In 2 weeks we have all the latest in X-ray astronomy and high energy astrophysics from Dr Rodolfo ‘Rudy’ Montez from The Harvard-Smithsonian Chandra X-ray Observatory.

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