News Science What to See in the Night Sky for April 2022 The start of galaxy season, a parade of planets, and a meteor shower all feature this month. By Michael d'Estries Michael d'Estries LinkedIn Twitter Writer State University of New York at Geneseo Quaestrom School of Business, Boston University (2022) Michael d’Estries is a co-founder of the green celebrity blog Ecorazzi. He has been writing about culture, science, and sustainability since 2005. His work has appeared on Business Insider, CNN, and Forbes. Learn about our editorial process Published April 1, 2022 08:00AM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Beerpix / Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive While March gets to officially welcome spring, it’s April that truly kicks down the door on our return to warmer weather. Nowhere, perhaps, is this more evident than in the evening hours, where the near-silent voids of winter are suddenly replaced with a cacophony of insect chatter amidst a world in thaw. Against this welcome return of nocturnal rejoicing, it’s also a great time of year to still enjoy the relatively early-dark of evening and look up! Below are some highlights to look forward to. Get That Telescope Ready: It’s Galaxy Season (all month) The start of spring in the northern hemisphere marks the beginning of galaxy season for anyone with a decent telescope. Why this time of year? During the winter and summer, the plane of our own Milky Way galaxy is directly in view, throwing up a haze of “local” galactic stars that dim distant galaxies. In spring we look “above” this plane, in fall we look “below”. Until the end of May, our night sky is populated with beautiful galaxy “clusters” (such as the Virgo Cluster), which are common targets for astrophotography enthusiasts. Want to do some galactic hunting? The site Astrobackyard offers up advice on how to spy 8 gorgeous galaxies at this time of year, with the recommendation that you secure a telescope with a focal length of at least 600mm or more for truly “stellar” results. CC 2.0 / NASA/ESA / The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) A New Moon Kicks Off Dark Skies (April 1) Just like last month, we’re kicking off April with a new moon and exceptionally dark skies. For a few days leading up to and after April 1, you can train your eyes, binoculars, or telescope and be treated to pristine views of galaxies, shooting stars, and other wonders otherwise dimmed by moonlight. Need a target? This month, we’re recommending the Sombrero Galaxy (M104). Located about 31.1 million light years away, this galaxy’s dark dust plane and bulging center give it a likeness to the popular wide-brimmed Mexican hat. At its center is a supermassive black hole with a mass that's at least a billion times that of our sun—the largest ever recorded in a nearby galaxy. To spot it, use a telescope (or, if you have exceptionally dark skies, a pair of binoculars) and look to the south around midnight in the constellation Virgo. Saturn and Mars Dance in the Pre-Dawn Sky (April 4-5) Stellarium Mars and Saturn will have what’s known as a “planetary conjunction,” when two celestial objects appear close together in the sky, in the pre-dawn hours of April 4 and 5. As seen from North America on April 4, a yellowish Saturn will appear to the direct left of a ruddy-red Mars. The two will then flip positions on the morning of the 5th. An hour before sunrise (and plenty of coffee) should give you the best view of these two dance partners. Blush at the Full ‘Pink’ Moon (April 16) April’s full moon, nicknamed the ‘Pink Moon’ after the rush of color from springtime blooms of creeping phlox (Phlox subulata), reaches its peak on April 16 at 2:57 p.m. EDT. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, some additional nicknames given to April’s full moon include “Breaking Ice Moon” (Algonquin) and the “Moon When the Ducks Come Back” (Dakota). Down in the Southern Hemisphere, where the transition to winter is underway, the Māori of New Zealand refer to April’s moon as Haratua, which means "crops are now stored in pits; the tasks of man are finished." The Moon Leads a Rare ‘Planet Parade’ (April 20-23) Stellarium Technically, April’s celestial planet parade starts April 17, but all four planets—Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn—will appear in a near-perfect line in the pre-dawn morning of the 20th. On the 21st, the moon will join the fun and by the 23rd will lead the pack. The image above is how all five objects will appear looking east at around 5:15 a.m. on the morning of the 23rd. But the best is yet to come: In late June, all of the planets in our solar system will align in the pre-dawn sky, though Neptune and Uranus will require binoculars to glimpse in the parade. According to Starwalk, those in the Southern Hemisphere will have the best view, as “the planets there will rise earlier and climb much higher.” Catch a Lyrid Star and Put It in Your Pocket (April 22-23) The Lyrid meteor shower will reach its peak on the evening of April 22-23, with a late-rising moon (just before 2 a.m. EDT) giving stargazers a nice window of dark skies in which to view them. Lyrids aren’t known for being a particularly prolific shower, averaging around 20 meteors per hour at peak. That said, EarthSky reports that about a quarter leave behind glowing trails—a nice bonus for those otherwise "blink and you’ll miss it" shooing stars. If you can wait around until 2042, you’ll be treated to a Lyrid outburst of dozens of shooting stars per hour. This phenomenon, which occurs every 60 years, is due to the Earth entering a dense stream of debris leftover from comet Thatcher, the parent comet of the Lyrids. The last outburst, in 1982, produced nearly 100 meteors per hour at peak. To spot them, find a nice patch of the night sky free of light pollution. The Lyrids will appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra (which is easy to spot thanks to its inclusion of Vega, one of the brightest stars). Looking Ahead to Next Month Like the temperatures, night sky events will start heating up in May. In addition to a total lunar eclipse for much of North America, there’s yet another annual meteor shower and maybe, just maybe, the chance for an intense burst of shooting stars from a passing, decayed comet. Wishing you clear skies!