These Easter days are magnificent to observe the waning moon and very bright. We can also see how Mercury, Venus and Saturn are forming beautiful conjunctions as the month progresses.
The Moon is always the celestial protagonist of Holy Week: Those of us who are lucky enough to enjoy a few days of vacation on these dates are used to contemplating the skies illuminated by a big moon, full or almost full. If we are close to the sea and well oriented, our satellite traces a magnificent trail in the dark waters; and if we are in the countryside or in the mountains, the whole landscape takes on that peculiar, whitish and somewhat unreal tone, so characteristic of full moon nights.
The first full moon of spring marks the date of Easter Sunday. This year, that first full moon happened on the 6th of April and therefore Easter Sunday is celebrated on the 9th of April. During the weekend, Selene gets up early. On Saturday, the 8th, he appears behind the eastern horizon at 11:33 pm, and with each passing day, his departure is delayed by just over an hour.
After the full moon, the lunar disk looks darker every day, but this weekend it still looks splendid for most of the night, until it disappears from view to the west when the light of dawn illuminates the sky background. On the 13th, the moon will be in the last quarter and on the new moon of the 20th, we will be able to enjoy the dark sky all night.
Venus and Mercury
After the Moon, Venus is the brightest star in the night sky; in the first half of April we can see it in the early evening to the west and northwest. And we can also take advantage of these days of great elongation of Mercury (its angular separation from the Sun) to observe the small planet in the twilight sky.
To get a good view of both planets, you must be in an unobstructed spot – no buildings, no trees – in front of the western horizon, as Mercury is just
It rises about three degrees above the horizontal. To find it, it is convenient to first locate Venus and then reach Mercury while looking down almost touching the Earth.
Particularly striking will be the image that the two rocky planets will form on Tuesday the 11th, when Venus will be located very close to the Pleiades, in the constellation of Taurus, where the reddish Aldebaran also shines splendidly. It is convenient to observe the scene when an hour and a half has passed after sunset and the sky has already darkened, that is, around 23:30 (peninsular time).
As these planets are both within Earth’s orbit, the distances that separate them from us are not very different: Mercury is now 135 million kilometers away and Venus is 168 million kilometers away. Despite being farther away, Venus’ larger size and reflectivity make it shine 36 times brighter than tiny Mercury.
Also on these days we can take advantage of the sunrise to observe Saturn, although from our latitudes the ringed giant remains at low elevations. A good time to observe it will be on Sunday, the 16th, at dawn, when it will form a beautiful conjunction with the Moon which, already waning, will give us a delicious and fine edge.
mars and jupiter
Mars is still observable during the second part of the night in the southwest. It will be in conjunction with the crescent moon on the 25th and 26th of April, in Gemini, between the luminous Pollux and Castor. Let’s remember that the red planet was located aligned with the Sun and the Earth, at the best moment for its observation, on December 8, 2022, which is what it calls ‘opposition’.
Mars is 1.5 times farther from the Sun than Earth and takes 1.88 times longer to complete its orbit. This causes red planet oppositions to happen every 2.13 years. The next one will take place on January 16, 2025. Meanwhile, the red planet will continue to move discreetly along its orbit, moderately bright, but always beautifully orange-red.
And finally, where is Jupiter? Its line of sight is now very close to that of the Sun and, therefore, the giant planet is not visible during these days, and we will only see it again in mid-May when it will appear very low, at dawn, in the east.
If we have some free time now at Easter, let’s take the opportunity to look at the sublime sky, preferably at sunrise and sunset, when those stars that have accompanied and inspired humanity since the most ancient civilizations remain faithful in their orbits. . The course of the planets in their movements ordered by the sky always makes us dream, as it reminds us that we are part of a wonderful family called the ‘solar system’.
Rafael Bachiller is director of the National Astronomical Observatory (National Geographic Institute) and academic at the Royal Academy of Physicians of Spain.
According to the criteria of
To know more