Spring opens with the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter returning to the evening sky, and Mars and Saturn putting on a stunning display before dawn.
Beginning in the west just after sunset, look for Venus, gleaming like a diamond against the orange glow of twilight. Venus spent last month steadily gaining altitude at dusk, and this month finds it well-placed for evening viewing. This brilliant world continues its upward trek from the horizon, each evening yielding more time for viewing before our turning planet carries Venus out of view.
There is no need to know stars or constellations to find Venus, just look for the brightest object you can see in the west after sunset. Unless the Moon is present, you are looking at Venus. Speaking of the Moon, a crescent moon joins Venus on April 17, to the left of the planet.
As the sky darkens look for a grouping of stars known as the Pleiades star cluster above Venus. This month provides the last good chance for seeing the Pleiades before they are lost to the Sun’s glare, not to return to the evening sky until next fall.
Mighty Jupiter returns to the evening sky this month, rising in the east around 11 pm. While not as bright as Venus, Jupiter easily holds its own against the summer stars in which it shares the sky. The largest planet has no problem outshining them all.
Rising around 2:30 am in the east at month’s onset is the planetary duo of Mars and Saturn. Mars glows an orange-red color and Saturn is yellowish just to the upper left of Mars. But if you want to see these two worlds, you don’t have to go out in the middle of the night. By 6 am, the turning Earth has carried them to the southern sky, making them high up and well-placed for viewing.
Mars grows steadily brighter each month and by summer it will be at its brightest in recent years, thanks to a close approach as Earth overtakes Mars on its faster track around the Sun.
Saturn and Mars are joined by a gorgeous waning gibbous moon on the morning of April 7. You can find this trio in the southern sky around 6 am.