In April, many nice constellations are visible; Leo, Virgo and Boötes are among them. But the Big Dipper can really capture your attention – provided that you dare to look up, of course!
This familiar group of stars is visible all year, but springtime offers the most favourable observing conditions: The seven bright stars that make up the dipper are very high in the evening sky. This allows us to locate them in the city despite the urban lights and buildings that often block the horizon.
But what is the difference between the Big Dipper and the Great Bear? The Big Dipper is what’s called an asterism, a simple pattern created by bright stars. Not to be confused with a constellation, which is often more complex and usually contains more stars. The asterism of the dipper is in fact a small part of the constellation of the Great Bear. Among the 88 official constellations, the Great Bear is one of those that occupies the largest area of the sky!
The complete constellation is more difficult to discern. In the city, light pollution makes the task more arduous; a country sky facilitates the job. First locate the asterism of the Big Dipper by looking near the zenith, a bit toward the north. After you have found it, locate a triangle of stars in front of the bowl of the dipper, opposite the handle: that is the head and muzzle of the animal. Then, below the bowl and the muzzle of the bear, look for the feet and claws. The handle of the dipper is simply the extremely long tail of this imaginary bear. Good hunting!
The Moon and planets in April
The full moon of April 4 will provide a total lunar eclipse, but the phenomenon will be barely observable from Quebec: only the beginning of the partial phases will be visible starting at 6:15 A.M., just before the Moon sets.
It’s impossible to miss Venus, brilliant and spectacular in the west as soon as the Sun disappears below the horizon. It begins in Aries and passes into Taurus as of April 8. Venus separates more and more from the Sun and appears higher and higher as evening begins. At the end of the month, it remains visible until midnight.
Jupiter shines in the constellation of Cancer all month long. Look relatively high in the sky toward the south and southwest in the evening: you’ll see an object brighter than all the others (except Venus) with a slightly yellow tint.
Saturn, in the constellation of Scorpius, appears above the east-southeast horizon later in the night. The ringed planet rises earlier and earlier, bit by bit, as the month advances.
Good celestial outings, and take good advantage of the rising spring!
Planets visible to the naked eye