"The Moon Visits Three Planets and a Cosmic Beehive of Stars"

Scheduled air date: 2003 Mar 31-Apr 06

Because the planet Mercury's orbit is so close to the Sun, it is usually hidden from view by the Sun's glare.  During the month of April, however, it will be visible low in the western sky shortly after sunset.  On April 2nd, a thin Crescent Moon will appear to the lower left of Mercury.  On the 16th, Mercury will be at greatest eastern elongation—the point in its orbit which appears farthest eastward of the Sun as seen from Earth—and should therefore be quite easy to see.
(Shown about 40 minutes after sunset from March 30-May 1 for mid-northern latitudes.)

The Waxing Crescent Moon will progress from the vicinity of Mercury to appear to the left of the Pleiades open star cluster (M45) on April 5th, above the ringed planet Saturn on the 7th, beneath the Gemini twin star Pollux on the 9th, and to the right of the giant planet Jupiter on the 10th.  Another open star cluster, M44—also known as Praesepe, or the Beehive Cluster—can be found in the same binocular or low-power telescopic field with Jupiter this month (inset).
(Shown about 70 minutes after sunset from April 3-10 for mid-northern latitudes.)

If you wish to view illustrations for other episodes, please see our Star Gazer Illustrated directory.

Illustrations on this page were created using TheSky Astronomy Software, an advanced desktop planetarium program designed for Windows.

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