Mars & Moon - Eric Kilby via Flickr

16 Must-See Events in the Night Sky in April 2019

In Night Sky Guideby Space Tourism Guide

Let’s hope those notorious ‘April Showers’ stay far away! April is going to be a great month to get out and go stargazing. From close encounters between various planets and our moon to a whole spate of galactic viewing opportunities, you’ll want to get out and look up at least once this month.

If you’re looking for one particular night to head to a dark sky location, mark your calendar for April 23rd. On this night, there’s a meteor shower peak, a close encounter between Jupiter and the Moon, and a picture-perfect opportunity to view a distant spiral galaxy. It’s also an important day here on earth: STG founder Valerie’s birthday. Her birthday wish is that you’ll all go stargazing and appreciate what the night sky has to offer this month.

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Where necessary, we have noted (with ) where you may need binoculars or a telescope to help you get the best view of each celestial event. If you need a telescope to help enjoy this month’s night sky events, we have a guide to the best stargazing telescopes. From the Meade Polaris 130 (under $200) to the Orion Atlas 8 EQ-G GoTo ($2000), you can find one for your astronomy interest and budget.

April 1 – Close Approach of the Moon & Venus

Moon, Venus & Jupiter - AnnaNakami via Flickr
Photo credit: AnnaNakami via Flickr

It’s no joke – April starts off with a great excuse to go stargazing. On April 1st, the Moon and Venus will pass within 2°32′ of each other. This is a perfect opportunity to easily spot Venus – and the view can be even better if you have binoculars or a telescope to improve the view.

The moon will be a 27-day old waning crescent and only 8% illuminated. This means it won’t generate too much light pollution to block out this great opportunity to see Venus.

Curious when else you can easily see Venus in 2019? Check out our guide to the night sky in 2019.

April 2 – The Sombrero Galaxy is Well-Placed for Viewing

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

 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

Fashionista stargazers will want to head out on April 2nd when the most famous hat in the universe is on display. The Sombrero Galaxy (M104/NGC 4594) will be well placed for viewing around local time. The moon will be young and only 8% illuminated, so it won’t interfere too much. The Sombrero Galaxy is best viewed from the southern hemisphere and below the 58°N latitude. 

April 5 – The Cat’s Eye Galaxy is Well-Placed for Viewing

Cat's Eye Galaxy - Carsten Frenzl via Flickr
Photo credit: Carsten Frenzl via Flickr

 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

For you northern hemisphere stargazers looking for a galactic view, April 5th is a good night. the Cat’s Eye Galaxy (M94) will be high in the sky and well-placed for viewing around midnight local time.

From earth, we view the Cat’s Eye Galaxy ‘face on’ – meaning we get a great view of the entire galaxy and the beautiful structure of its spiral arms. With a good telescope (140mm aperture or higher), you should be able to get a breathtaking look at this distant galaxy, located 16.01 million light years away.

April 9 – Close Approach of the Moon & Mars

Close Approach of Mars & Moon - Manu Méndez via Flickr
Photo credit: Manu Méndez via Flickr

On April 9th, Mars has a close encounter with the Moon – the first one since January. At dusk, Mars and the Moon will pass within 4°35′ of each other. The moon will be a young 4 days old, and only 15% illuminated. You’ll be able to see the dusty orange dot of Mars and a beautiful sliver of the moon.

If you have a telescope or binoculars, you won’t be able to see Mars and the Moon in the same view, but you will get a closer look at our planetary neighbor and can spot some of the sharp details of craters on the moon.

Curious when else you can easily see Mars in 2019? Check out our guide to the night sky in 2019.

April 12 – Peak of the Virginid Meteor Shower

Among meteor showers, the Virginids are often overlooked for more bombastic events like the Perseids in August and Geminids in December. Admittedly, the Virginids are a relatively small meteor shower, running from April 7th-18th and peaking on April 12th in 2019. On the night of maximum activity, you can expect to see around five meteors per hour – so it’s quite a wait between each one.

To spot Virginid meteors, identify the constellation Virgo in the southern sky. The brightest star in the constellation, Spica, is an eye-catching double star that will help you identify the right part of the sky. Then scan the southern sky as a whole, as meteors will appear to radiate from Virgo – but are best viewed as they move away from the radiant point. Don’t forget to make a wish!

April 13 – Close Approach of the Moon & M44

M44 - Thomas Bresson via Flickr
Photo credit: Thomas Bresson via Flickr

M44, the Beehive Cluster in Cancer, is a popular stargazing sight for amateur astronomers – and April 13th is a great night to try and spot it. The Moon and M44 will pass within 0°04′ of each other in the evening sky that night. You don’t need a telescope to see M44; to the unaided eye, it will appear as a nebulous cloud in the sky. If you have a telescope or binoculars though, you’ll be able to differentiate stars and get a much more nuanced view of this deep sky object.

The Moon will be roughly 50% illuminated as it passes the first quarter phase one day earlier. Instead of trying to identify M44 at the point of closest approach, wait until later in the night (around midnight) once the moon has moved further from Cancer. This reduces light pollution from the moon and makes it easier to spot the open star cluster.

April 14 – Centaurus A & the Whirlpool Galaxy are Both Well-Placed for Viewing

Centaurus A - Hubble ESA via Flickr
Photo credit: Hubble ESA via Flickr

 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view these objects! 

On April 14th, it’s a double-whammy of deep sky objects ideally placed for viewing! Most of us will only see one or the other, as the objects are only visible in different hemispheres.

Centaurus A (NGC 5128), a beautiful and distinctive bright galaxy roughly 10-16 million light-years from earth, will be well-placed for viewing on the night of April 14th. Unfortunately, Centaurus A is not visible above the 26°N latitude. Stargazers in the southern hemisphere can look for the galaxy to reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.

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

For those in the northern hemisphere, look instead for the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51/NGC 5194). The Whirlpool Galaxy offers an exceptionally distinctive view, as two spiral galaxies slowly converge, one appearing to suck the other in. The Whirlpool Galaxy is in Canis Major, near the handle of the Big Dipper/Plough.

April 15 – Haumea is Well-Placed for Viewing

 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object!

Haumea, the oblong dwarf planet in the far reaches of the solar system, will be ideally placed for viewing on April 15th. As the Moon will be 84% illuminated, you may experience some light pollution as you attempt to view Haumea. Haumea will be at opposition – well-illuminated by the sun – and high in the sky around midnight local time. Look for it in the constellation Boötes close to the red giant star Arcturus.

April 17 – The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy is Well-Placed for Viewing

Southern Pinwheel Galaxy - Ben via Flickr
Photo credit: Ben via Flickr

 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

If you haven’t figured it out, April is a great month for viewing deep sky objects and galaxies! This continues on April 17th when the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy (M83, NGC 5236) will appear high in the sky around midnight local time. The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy appears ‘face on’ from our perspective here on earth. With a good telescope, you can differentiate the shape of the spiral galaxy.

April 18 – M3 is Well-Placed for Viewing

M3 - gianni via Flickr
Photo credit: gianni via Flickr

 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

Who doesn’t love a good globular cluster? It’s such a fun phrase to say! On April 18th, the globular cluster M3 (NGC 5272) will be high in the sky around midnight local time. This globular cluster (how many times can we say it?) is located near the constellation Boötes and its dominant star, Arcturus. You’ll need a telescope to see this object or differentiate any of its stars.

April 23 – Peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower & More!

Lyrid Meteor Shower - Rocky Raybell via Flickr
Photo credit: Rocky Raybell via Flickr

There are three good night sky events on the night of April 23rd: the peak of the Lyrids meteor shower, and a close approach between Jupiter and the Moon.

The Lyrids run from April 19th-25th this year and will peak in activity on the 23rd. On this night, you can look for up to 10 meteors per hour. The radiant point of the meteor shower is in Lyra, near the bright star Vega, in the northeastern sky. Scan the northern and eastern skies to spot meteors as they streak away from this area. Keep your eyes peeled for Lyrid Fireballs which burn brighter and leave a shadowy trail in the sky!

In between meteor sightings, check out Jupiter and the Moon. They’ll pass within 1°37′ of each other in the early evening. The moon will be a bright 81% illuminated, so you may want to wait until later to try and spot Jupiter and its Galilean moons. 

Lastly, M101, a spiral galaxy, will be high in the sky around midnight local time. If you’re out with a telescope on this night, take a look for this deep sky object near the handle of the Big Dipper/Plough in the constellation Ursa Major.

Curious when else you can easily see Jupiter in 2019? Check out our guide to the night sky in 2019.

April 25 – Close Approach of the Moon, Saturn & Pluto

Saturn & Mars - makelessnoise via Flickr
Photo credit: makelessnoise via Flickr

 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view Pluto! 

April ends with a planetary meetup: the Moon, Saturn, and Pluto will pass within 0°04′-0°22′ of each other in the dawn sky on April 25th. If you have a telescope, this is a great opportunity to try and spot Pluto using Saturn as a guide. The moon will be bright at 62% illuminated and this may interfere with your ability to differentiate these solar system objects, but it’s worth a shot if you’re up early on this morning!

Curious when else you can easily see Saturn and Pluto in 2019? Check out our guide to the night sky in 2019.

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Have questions about these night sky events in April? Email us!

Featured photo credit: Eric Kilby via Flickr

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Space Tourism Guide

Space Tourism Guide was founded with a mission to help every traveler find wonder among the stars. We produce expert guides to stargazing, seeing eclipses, the aurora, and rocket launches, travel tips for dark sky destinations, and advice on space tourism.