Night Sky Guide

15 Must-See Astronomy Events in the April Night Sky (2024)

Let’s hope those notorious ‘April Showers’ stay far away! April is going to be a great month to get out and go stargazing, planet-gazing, asteroid-viewing, and much more. From close encounters between various planets and our moon to a whole spate of solar system viewing opportunities, there are plenty of April night sky events to mark on your calendar. Don’t forget too that the Milky Way is rising for the northern hemisphere, so other nights are good too even if one of these events isn’t happening!

If you’re looking for one particular night to head to a dark sky location, mark your calendar for the night of April 22nd-23rd. On this night, you can enjoy the first major meteor shower of the year. It’s also an important day here on earth: it’s my birthday! My birthday wish is that you’ll all go stargazing and appreciate what the night sky has to offer this month.

April Night Sky Hero
Photo credit: Eric Kilby via Flickr

Where necessary, we have noted where you may need binoculars or a telescope to help you get the best view of each celestial event. If you need equipment to view any of these April night sky events, I recommend checking out my guide to recommended telescopes and binoculars; there are ranked lists of good equipment at every price point to fit your budget or inspire your next upgrade.

Ready to explore the wonders of the night sky this coming month? Read on for the best April night sky events!

This post was originally published in March 2020, and was updated most recently in March 2024.

April 2 – The Sombrero Galaxy is Well-Placed

Sombrero Galaxy - Kees Scherer via Flickr
Photo credit: Kees Scherer via Flickr

While the best chance for the Messier Marathon may have happened last month, April still holds the chance to see several iconic deep space objects, kicking off with an opportunity to see the beautiful Sombrero Galaxy (Messier 104).

On the night of April 2nd (and following weeks), the Sombrero Galaxy will be high in the sky as will the rest of the surrounding constellation Virgo. You’ll need a telescope or high-powered binoculars to see the dusty disk and bright core of M104, but it’s well worth it if you’ve never spotted an object like this before.

April 3 – Conjunction of Venus & Neptune

Want to try and spot icy Neptune this year? Here’s an opportunity for viewers in the eastern and southern hemispheres when Venus and Neptune rise together in conjunction. On April 3rd, the pair will appear just 17′ apart at their closest, making Venus a great guide to spotting the distant icy giant.

April 6 – Close Approach of the Moon & Mars/Saturn

Mars & Venus - Auvo Korpi via Flickr
Photo credit: Auvo Korpi via Flickr

As mentioned in January, I’m being more discerning in which close approaches I recommend this year; several occur in April that meet my criteria, making for a great month of astronomy events. First up, the Moon and Mars meet just after midnight (EDT) on April 6th; they’ll appear just 1°45′ apart at their closest, when passing through the constellation Aquarius.

A few hours later, just before sunrise on the 6th, the Moon moves quite close to Saturn too. This pair will appear even closer together, only 1°04′ apart in Aquarius as well. Together, this pair offers a great opportunity to admire the celestial dance in our solar system.

April 7 – Close Approach/Lunar Occultation of the Moon & Venus

But wait, there’s more! The following night, viewers across the globe will be treated to another close approach – if not a lunar occultation (when the Moon passes in front of another night sky object). On the night of April 7th, most people will have the opportunity to see the Moon and Venus as close as 20.7 arcminutes from one another (depending on your location on Earth).

However, if you live in Central America or eastern North America and your skies are clear, you can potentially spot the Moon passing directly in front of Venus – a lunar occultation! Here’s a resource on the details and timing of the event, but best of all, the Moon will be new on this night, making this lunar occultation much like a solar eclipse where the dark disk of our satellite obscures bright Venus as it moves across the night sky.

April 8 – Total Solar Eclipse

Diamond Ring during Solar Eclipse

You’ve probably heard: there’s an actual solar eclipse happening in April too, and it’s a big one (at least for those of us in North America). Much like back in 2017, this solar eclipse will pass across a large swath of the U.S., and totality will be visible in some major cities and even a few national parks.

I’ve got a resource about this total solar eclipse with all the details, as well as more information on the states, cities, and national parks where totality will be visible if you want to plan a trip.

April 10 – Close approach of Saturn & Mars

Turning back to the parade of close approaches in April, April 10th provides another option; this time the Moon isn’t involved – but two other planets who had close approaches with the Moon are! Saturn and Mars will appear 26.4 arcminutes apart at their closest, which is closer than the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn a few years ago.

You don’t need any equipment to view this pair of planets, but if you have one, it’ll be a great chance to study both in the same frame of view.

April 14 – The Whirlpool Galaxy is Well-Placed

Whirlpool Galaxy - gianni via Flickr
Photo credit: gianni via Flickr

Far further away, let’s look out into deep space again, as there are more galaxies well-placed for viewing as the month continues. On April 14th, the Whirlpool Galaxy (also known as Messier 15) will be on best display. What makes M51 unique is that it’s actually an interacting system: there’s a beautiful “grand-design” spiral galaxy we can see head-on which appears to be “sucking” from a neighboring Seyfert 2 active galactic nucleus – it’s truly iconic, as you can see above.

Mid-month, use a star-finder app to look for this deep space object high in the sky for most viewers around midnight local time; it will be in the constellation Canes Venatici.

April 15 – The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy is Well-Placed

Another night, another galaxy viewing opportunity – oh, what a tough life we astronomy fans live, spending our nights out under the stars looking deep into the wonders of the universe! On April 15th, look for the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy (Messier 83) in the constellation Hydra; it too will be high in the sky, but in the evenings rather than overnight.

April 20 – Haumea at Opposition

Haumea - Kevin Gill via Flickr
Artist’s depiction of Haumea – Photo credit: Kevin Gill via Flickr

Don’t break down your telescope yet this month – the second half of April is when the majority of action is happening!

April 20th has another reason to keep it set up! Dwarf planet Haumea reaches opposition on this night, and will appear bright due to the geometry of its alignment with the sun and earth.

Haumea is located in the constellation Boötes near bright Arcturus; with the proper equipment, you can use the red giant star to star-hop to Haumea. It will reach its highest point around midnight local time, no matter where you are viewing from.

April 21 – Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks passes Perihelion

As part of researching this month’s solar eclipse, I was delighted to discover there’s another unique astronomical sight – one that may well be visible during totality!

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks was discovered back in 1812, but recent calculations showed it will be visible near the sun on April 8th; this is because it’s approaching perihelion (its point closest to the sun) during its 71 year orbital period.

Here’s a cool resource about spotting Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks during the eclipse, which will be the best viewing opportunity.

April 22 – Peak of the Lyrid Meteor Showers

April Night Sky - Lyrid Meteor Shower - Islam Hassan via Flickr
Photo credit: Islam Hassan via Flickr

In the early morning hours of April 22nd, head out for a night sky show of meteoric proportions. The year’s first major meteor shower in the northern hemisphere, the Lyrids, will peak around dawn on the 22nd, so your best viewing prospects will be in the pre-dawn hours. The Lyrids typically produce a Zenith Hourly Rate (ZHR) around 18 on the night of peak activity.

Despite their name, look for them from the radiant point in the constellation Hercules; this will be visible most of the night for stargazers in the northern hemisphere. Best of all, the moon will be very dim, just a 13% illuminated waxing crescent moon; it won’t present much interference to spotting Lyrids as they shoot across the sky.

Here’s my complete guide to seeing the 2024 Lyrids Meteor Shower, my birthday meteor shower!

April 22 – The Pinwheel Galaxy is Well Placed

In addition to celebrating my birthday with Lyrid meteors, I hope to be able to spot the Pinwheel Galaxy, (Messier 101) which is yet another beautiful spiral galaxy that will be high in the sky as the month moves toward its conclusion. M101 will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time on the 22nd, but will remain high and visible in Ursa Major for a few weeks to come.

April 23 – Peak of the π-Puppid Meteor Showers

For viewers in the southern hemisphere, the 23rd is also a great night to try and see ‘shooting stars:’ the π-Puppid (“pi Puppid”) meteor shower peaks that night too. Though far less active than the Lyrids, π-Puppids are variable and can be a rewarding shower depending on the year.

This year, the radiant point of the π-Puppids will be tough to spot for those in the northern hemisphere, so this is one of the April night sky events that are better suited for you night sky viewers in the southern hemisphere. Unfortunately, a nearly full moon will provide interference, so I’d only go out if you live somewhere with good dark sky quality and the skies are exceptionally clear.

April 29 – Close approach of Mars & Neptune

Remember that opportunity to spot Neptune using Venus earlier in the month? Now Mars is there to guide you. On April 29th, Mars and Neptune will appear unbelievably close – 2.1 arcminutes apart – and your best chance to spot the pair will be if you’re more south on the globe. (For me here around 40°N, the pair won’t be higher than 7° above the horizon as they move close together which makes them basically impossible to spot.)

As with Venus, you will need stargazing equipment to see Mars and Neptune – only because Neptune isn’t visible without an aid.

Know of any other great astronomical events in the April night sky, or have questions about these ones? Let me know in the comments below!

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Valerie is the founder and editor of Space Tourism Guide. She grew up in Alaska, has lived across the U.S., and traveled around the world to enjoy the night sky from many different perspectives. Join her on this journey to explore space right here on earth.

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