By Mario Carr
Mercury can be one of the hardest planets to see except for a week before and after April 18 when it will be at its best for 2016.
On that date, Mercury will be obvious, since it will be at its highest and brightest point after sunset in the south western sky. Normally, Mercury hugs the horizon making it difficult to see except early Spring. That’s because the imaginary plane of the Sun and other planets, called the ecliptic, is higher in the sky.
The next best time to see the planet is early Fall when the ecliptic is higher in the morning sky. On April 8 it will be close to a thin crescent Moon. If you look at Mercury on April 25 with a telescope, it will look like a small crescent Moon.
This month, the Full Moon called the Pink Moon will also appear smaller and less bright than usual on April 21. However, on April 7, the new Moon will be closer than usual. Combined with the fact that the gravitational pull of the Moon with the Sun are also greatest during Spring, we will see extreme 18.6 year tides along seacoasts on April 9.
Here are April stargazer events. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar.
Venus is still bright but moving lower in the morning sky. Mars rises late evening and can be seen all night. Jupiter can be seen in the evening sky. Saturn rises late evening and Neptune can be seen in the eastern dawn sky.
April 13 – First-quarter Moon.
April 15 – Hamilton Amateur Astronomers meeting 7:30-9:30 p.m, Spectator Building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton. Free admission, door prizes and everybody is welcome. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods will be collected and appreciated.
April 17 – The Moon is close and two degrees below Jupiter in the evening sky.
April 23 – Hamilton Amateur Astronomers Open House/Scope Clinic and solar observing weather permitting, 1-4 p.m., Spectator Building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton.
April 24 – There will be a wide grouping of the Moon, Mars, Saturn and Antares after midnight.
For more information, see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at http://www.amateurastronomy.org or call (905) 627-4323. The club offers a basic astronomy course for members.
Mario Carr is the club’s director of publicity and can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @MarioCCarr