9 Must-See Astronomy Events in the April Night Sky (2023)
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: STG founder Valerie’s birthday is the 23rd! Her birthday wish is that you’ll all go stargazing and appreciate what the night sky has to offer this month.
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 on for the best April night sky events!
This post was originally published in March 2020, and was updated most recently in March 2023.
April 11 – Mercury at its Evening Peak
April is a big month for planetary viewing options, starting off with the smallest and closest to the sun. Since Mercury is so close to the sun, we can only observe it when it reaches its “highest” aka visually furthest from the sun. This occurs cyclically as part of Mercury’s 88-day orbit; sometimes Mercury reaches its “peak” in the morning, then in the evening.
In any case, on April 28th, you’ll be able to see Mercury about 17° above the western horizon just after sunset. This is a great opportunity to head out and try to spot the smallest planet.
April 15 – Close Approach of the Moon & Saturn
From a tiny planet to a very big one – April is certainly an interesting month, astronomically speaking. After spotting Mercury a few nights earlier, there will be a nice chance to view ringed Saturn overnight from April 15th-16th. This night, the Moon and Saturn will have a close visual approach, appearing just 3°11′ apart.
They will appear at their closest at about 2am EDT, but both solar system bodies will be big and easy to spot in the hours leading up to (and following) their moment of closest appearance. In any case, you’ll be able to spot them without binoculars or telescope – but the latter will help you differentiate the rings of Saturn if you’ve never seen them before.
April 20 – Hybrid Solar Eclipse
Honestly, I don’t really know where to begin in trying to describe how this “hybrid” solar eclipse will be for viewers – let me start by saying that this is an astronomical event you can only see if you live in Australia, Timor-Leste, and Indonesia. This eclipse has been nicknamed “The Ningaloo Eclipse,” taking its name from an Aboriginal word for the area where totality will be visible in Australia.
As in every solar eclipse, the vast majority of people will only see a partial solar eclipse; a very small number of people will be in the range where either the sun appears totally blocked (totality) or it appears as a “ring of fire” in the sky (annularity). What viewers see will depend on their location; those at the far ends of the path of totality (out over the ocean in both cases) could see annularity, though by the time this eclipse passes over land, it will be a total solar eclipse.
Here’s a really handy guide if you’re curious to learn more about where this eclipse is visible and what it will look like.
April 20 – Haumea at Opposition
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 23 – Peak of the Lyrid Meteor Showers
In the early morning hours of April 23rd, 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 23rd, 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 2023 Lyrids Meteor Shower.
April 13 – Close Approach of the Moon & Venus
April 23rd is also a good night to spot the planet Venus, if you’re out looking for Lyrids. On this night, the Moon and Venus will make a close visual approach, appearing just 1°17′ apart. This is quite close – but not close enough to be visible in a single telescope view or binoculars; you will be easily able to spot the tiny waxing crescent Moon and bright Venus and hop between them if you do have equipment set up.
April 24 – Peak of the π-Puppid Meteor Showers
For viewers in the southern hemisphere, the next night (April 24th) is another a great night to try and see ‘shooting stars:’ the π-Puppid meteor shower peaks on the 24th 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’s better suited you night sky viewers in the southern hemisphere.
April 25 – Close Approach of the Moon & Mars
Next, the Moon and Mars share an evening together. After sunset on April 25th, the Moon and Mars will appear just 3°13′ apart, so easy to spot and enjoy with the unaided eye. Binoculars or a telescope will only make the evening more enjoyable, but aren’t essential.
April 30 – Asteroid 7 Iris at Opposition
Rounding out April’s list of night sky events, the night of April 30th is a good chance to spot the asteroid 7 Iris. This large main-belt asteroid is considered to be a possible remnant planetesimal – that is, a body in the solar system that didn’t create enough gravity to draw mass to form a planet – but which might have under different conditions.
In any event, the night of April 29th is one such opportunity, when asteroid 7 Iris reaches opposition and will be brightly illuminated by the sun. On this night, you’ll need a telescope to try and spot small Iris in the constellation Libra. For viewers in the northern hemisphere, the asteroid won’t be higher than 21° above the southeastern horizon, making this a delightfully tricky April night sky object to see.
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!
Thank you! I hope I can catch the Lyrids and maybe see Mercury for the first time!
What about the Eta Aquariids?
Good question! The Eta Aquariids peak in May, so that’s when I include them as a suggested night sky event.
Allison C Bayer
Thank you for all the sightings to look out for! We are travelling next week where there is little light pollution so look forward to seeing Mercury risig on the 11th and on the 15th the Moon and Saturn close to one another.
Have a great time!