Solar system siblings Mars and Saturn begin April cosmically inseparable, at least from our earthly perspective. You can find these two planets in the morning south-southeastern sky, before sunrise.

The reddish Mars begins the month at 0.3 magnitude, which is bright and gets brighter through the spring and summer, while the ringed Saturn (0.5 magnitude, slightly more dim than Mars) sits in the same space as the Red Planet, just above the teapot shape of the constellation Sagittarius. Mars and Saturn conjunct Monday when they will be 1.3 degrees apart, according to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

In terms of action above the Sagittarius teapot’s dome, you’ll notice the two planets separate more on each morning this week. The waning gibbous moon (about 56 percent lit, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory) joins the planetary duo, as it appears to nudge Saturn on the morning of April 7.

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Mars will be to the left of Saturn. By the end of April, both planets are far apart in the southern morning sky.

The giant planet Jupiter anchors the late night and morning sky, as it will be -2.4 magnitude, very bright. The large, gaseous planet rises in the east-southeast now in the 10 p.m. hour, by the end of April it climbs the east- ­southeast around 8:30 p.m. But, when you walk the dog before sunrise, watch the planet hang in the southwest throughout the month. You may notice that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the waning gibbous moon glides above Jupiter.

Catch the sliver of a young moon pass under the vivacious Venus on the evenings of April 16-17 in the western sky. It’s difficult to miss our neighboring planet, since Venus is seen at -3.9 magnitude, quite bright.

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The Lyrid meteors approximately peak on April 21-22, according to the International Meteor Organization (IMO.net). The shower features about 20 shooting stars an hour, as the meteors seem to emanate from the constellation Lyra, which rises late in the evening in the northeastern sky.

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Meteors occur when comets swing by our solar neighborhood. For the Lyrids, Comet Thatcher discovered on April 5, 1861, passed around the sun, left dusty debris in its wake and created a dusty trail. Earth smacks into that path, dust strikes our atmosphere, burns and creates a shooting star show for us.

Down-to-Earth Events

●April 2 — The wonders of the spring sky unfold at the “Stars Tonight” program at the David M. Brown Planetarium, 1426 N. Quincy St., Arlington, adjacent to Washington-Lee High School. 7:30 p.m. $3.
friendsoftheplanetarium.org

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●April 5 — “Directly Imaged Exoplanets,” a talk by research scientist Brian Hicks at the University of Maryland’s Observatory, College Park. Afterward, scan the heavens through telescopes, weather permitting.
8 p.m. astro.umd.edu/openhouse

●April 8 — “The Barmecide Feast,” a replica of the iconic, surreal room near the end of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” will honor the film’s 50th anniversary. Exhibited through May 31. National Air and Space Museum, Washington. airandspace.si.edu

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●April 8 — “Electronically Assisted Astronomy,” a talk by astronomer Tom Fowler, who will describe how to overcome the limitations of purely visual astronomy, despite light pollution. At the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club’s regular meeting, 163 Research Hall, George Mason University. 7 p.m. novac.com

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●April 18 — “Is Astronomy Ready for the James Webb Space Telescope?” a lecture by Ken Sembach, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute. Lockheed Martin Imax Theater, National Air and Space Museum, Washington. 8 p.m. airandspace.si.edu

●April 20 — Kathleen Mandt, of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab, talks on the Rosetta mission, at the University of Maryland’s Observatory, College Park. See the night sky through telescopes afterward, weather permitting. 8 p.m.
astro.umd.edu/openhouse

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●April 21 — Astronomy Day hosted by the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club. View the sun safely in the afternoon, see special presentations, and then tour the night sky through telescopes. 3 to 11 p.m., at C.M. Crockett Park, 10066 Rogues Road (Route 602), Midland, Va. $7 park entrance fee for non-Fauquier County residents. goo.gl/uqrbMV

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●April 21 — Find out how quantum gravity creates the fabric of reality at a Montgomery College Planetarium program, Takoma Park. 7 p.m. goo.gl/q9iwrS

●April 25 — “Swimming in Martian Lakes: Curiosity at Gale Crater,” a talk by Scott Guzewich, NASA research astrophysicist, explains exploring the remnants of this lake with a rover. At the Mary Pickford Theater, James Madison Memorial Building, Library of Congress. 11:30 a.m.
@librarycongress. goo.gl/izFq89

Blaine Friedlander can be reached at PostSkyWatch@gmail.com

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