Have a different kind of spring this year. Prop up a chair or spread a blanket, grab a bowl of popcorn, tag along a friend, and look up the April night sky as there's a good chance you will see Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn.
Here's a rough guide on how to see planets this April:
Mercury is expected to appear clearly from April until June, though the visibility may differ depending on the hours and where you are. The planet closest to the sun will become more noticeable around April 8 as it begins to pull itself away from the glare of the sun, which tends to culminate ten days after. For many days after that, it will stay out all night.
To make sure you don't miss it, "face the southwestern horizon starting about half an hour after local sunset and scan the sky with binoculars to catch the waxing crescent moon," suggested columnist and "night sky guy" Andrew Fazekas.
For those who are in the Southern Hemisphere, catching the elusive planet may be tough luck, more so if in the tepid latitudes. However, it may appear in the morning from May to June in this region.
Venus has earned the title of bright planet since it's the only planet that can be seen without the need of binoculars and other optical equipment. But it may be harder to catch it this month as it comes closer to the sun's glare. Nevertheless, people in the Southern Hemisphere can console themselves over the poor ability to see Mercury with Venus as the planet may be seen early in the morning during the first few weeks of April.
The red planet and perhaps the future home of the human race will become one of the brightest planets in April until May. This month, it will appear on the eastern horizon during early to late evening depending on which hemisphere you are and will continue to do so until before dawn. The good thing is if you can spot Mars, you may also see another planet, Saturn.
Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system, will be bright. In fact, its brightness will be more than that of Mars. But it's not the most interesting thing in the April night sky as far as Jupiter is concerned. The planet and its moon will went through different activities including eclipses and shadow transits from April 6 thru April 7.
Note, though, that the planet may look similar to Sirius, the dog star, which will also be very bright. To distinguish both, look for Orion constellation, the belt of which will point toward Sirius. Further, if Jupiter is on the east, Sirius is on the west. You will still see Jupit every night and it will most likely be the first start you will notice.
If you can see Mars, then more likely you can spot Saturn too as it will be close to the former, only above it. Further, along with Saturn and Mars will be another bright star Antares, which is part of the Scorpius constellation. For people living in Southern Hemisphere's tepid latitude, the star will appear in the eastern horizon after 9:00 p.m. in the early weeks of the month and at least an hour earlier before the month ends.
Uranus and Neptune, on other hand, will not be seen this April due to their nearness to the sun at this time.
Photo: Ryan Wick | Flickr