Sky Lights ~ Aries

March 20 - April 20, 2011

Jupiter quickly sinks out of sight, below the western horizon, during the first week of Aries. The planet is in exact conjunction with our Sun 4/6. Jupiter reappears in the morning sky, very low in the east, 30 minutes before sunrise at the end of April. 4/30 Dawn Map

Mercury, reaching its greatest distance from the setting Sun 3/22, gives its best 2011 evening performance. 3/22 7:30pm Map Mercury fades and disappears into the Sun's glowing light during the last week of March. The planet is in exact conjunction with our Sun 4/9. At the end of April use binoculars to spot Mercury in the early morning sky, between Venus and Jupiter. 4/30 Dawn Map ~ Historic First: A Spacecraft Orbits Mercury

Saturn reaches opposition 4/3 and is at its best during Aries, at its closest (800 million miles), biggest and brightest, and out all night long. The Lord of the Rings rises at sunset, lies overhead at midnight and sets at sunrise. The planet's yellowish glow is eye-catching above (west of) bluish Spica. The planet at magnitude 0.4 shines a little brighter than this star. Early April 10pm Map ~ 4/4-7 Star Gazer 5min-Video Use the Big Dipper to locate Saturn (see Arcturus below for details). Saturn's rings are opening, revealing more and more of their northern face. The planet's ring tilt is 9 in April. Saturn brightens and grows bigger as it approaches Earth and its rings open to reflect more light. Generate images of Saturn's ring tilt as seen from Earth with the Solar System Simulator.

Venus at magnitude -3.9 is breathtaking in the morning sky around 6:00am, however it is sinking toward the Sun and is only seen shortly before sunrise. 3/29 - 4/1 the Crescent Moon is elegant near Venus 3/29-3/31 Map ~ 3/31 6am Map ~ 4/1 Map/Text At the end of April several planets line-up with Venus and the Crescent Moon. 4/30 Dawn Map/Text

Mars is too close to our central luminary to be seen. Morning Mars won't be easily seen until mid-May, 30 minutes before sunrise.

Capella is the very bright star in the northwest setting in the beginning of Aries at 4:00am and by its end at 2:30am. It is the brightest star seen the most often. Compare the position of Capella in these two maps: Winter Stars (overhead) ~ Spring Stars (northwest).

The Pleiades star cluster can be seen sinking in the west in the early evening. Look for the line-up, west to southwest, of the sparkling blue-white Pleiades, red Aldebaran and brighter red Betelgeuse. Winter Stars The Pleiades set about 12:15am in the beginning of Aries and by its end at 10:45pm. Springtime Pleiades

Orion The Hunter is found with the winter stars sinking in the southwest at sunset. The stellar giant fully sets in the beginning of Aries by 1:15am and by its end at midnight. Use Orion's stars to navigate this area of the sky. Winter Stars Orion helps one find the Winter Triangle, the Great Winter Hexagon and the Valentine's Star!

Sirius the brightest star in the heavens can be seen high in the south as the sky darkens. Sirius sets in the beginning of Aries around 1:00am and by its end at 11:30pm.

Regulus and Leo the Lion spring up in the east at sunset.

Arcturus, a bright golden star, can be seen low on the eastern horizon at 9:00pm. Use the handle of the Big Dipper to arc down to golden Arcturus, then spike down to blue-white Spica in the south! Helpful Image In 2011 yellowish Saturn, technically at its best 4/3, lies above (west of) bluish Spica. A large triangle is formed by these 3 colorful celestial bodies. Early April 10pm Map Binoculars make vivid their colors. Big Dipper Navigation

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