Nepali Times
Star Gazing
Mercury's return


This month during the evening, the ringed-planet Saturn appears in the east, the elusive planet Mercury in the west and a meteor shower later in the month.

The April night sky also displays a variety of stars and constellations. During the evening, the Winter Hexagon will be dominating the western skies, where you can still enjoy the constellations Orion the Hunter, the V-shaped Taurus the Bull and the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) star cluster. Starting next month, many of the brilliant stars and star clusters of the Winter Hexagon will become lost in the glow of the setting Sun. So take some time this month to view these interesting sights. In the eastern sky you can see the constellations Leo the Lion and Virgo the Virgin. Saturn is just to the south of Leo and its incredible moons can be seen through the telescope. In the north eastern skies, you can easily identify the Big Dipper, Saptarshi.

The Lyrid meteor-shower is active during the third week of April, peaking probably on 22 April. The meteors seem to radiate outwards from a point in the constellation of Lyra, close to the bright star Vega, which is high in the south-east after midnight. The best time to look is in the early hours, before the sky grows bright towards dawn. We might expect to see one Lyrid every 10 minutes or so, and there will be little interference from the waning Moon.

This month amateur astronomy groups in Nepal will be organizing star parties for the public as part of the International Year of Astronomy's (IYA 2009) four-day event from April 2-5 called '100 Hours of Astronomy.' Designed to bring astronomy to the public around the world there will be public stargazing events throughout the world. Those of you who wish to participate in this global event, please visit:

Other Highlights for April:
is at it greatest elongation east of the Sun on 26 April, so this month we have an unusually good chance to spot this elusive little planet, in the western sky after sunset. Binoculars will help locate it, but it should be visible to the unaided eye once you know where to look.

Venus was at inferior conjunction (almost directly in front of the Sun) on 27 March. Throughout April it is rising in the east about an hour before sunrise. Although the 'morning star' is very bright indeed, it will be hard to see it, very low on the eastern horizon at dawn.

Mars is still rising only a few minutes before sunrise. We won't be getting good views of the 'red planet' until after the summer.

Jupiter is rising about an hour before the sun, so it's very low down at dawn and not so bright. However, as the month goes by, Jupiter rises earlier every day. By the end of April, Jupiter will be easier to see though it's still quite low in the south-eastern sky at dawn.

Saturn is more conveniently placed for evening viewing. It rises in the east in mid afternoon, and will be overhead by late evening. Don't miss observing Saturn on 6 April, when it will appear close to the Moon.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)