April 30, 2021: The bright, morning gibbous moon is between Antares and Sagittarius, among the stars of Ophiuchus. Bright Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeastern sky before sunrise.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:48 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:49 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Daylight is one minute longer than 14 hours at this latitude today. During April, daylight increased 77 minutes.
This morning the bright moon, 85% illuminated is about 20° up in the south in front of the stars of Ophiuchus, between Sagittarius and Scorpius.
The plane of the solar system, known as the ecliptic, is the path that the sun, moon, and planets appear to move along. The sun’s motion is from our revolution around that star. The planets’ motions compared to the sidereal background is from the combined motion of our world and the sun’s satellites.
The ecliptic is about 3 times longer in Ophiuchus than it is in Scorpius. This morning the moon is near the Sagittarius-Ophiuchus border. The Ophiuchus-Scorpius border is to the upper right of Antares, “the rival of Mars, the brightest star in Scorpius.
In mythology, Ophiuchus was a snake holder, possibly a predecessor of the modern physician.
From the moon’s position, the constellation extends upwards over 40°, although the pattern is an irregular shape.
This morning the moon is 16.0° to the upper left of Antares, “the rival of Mars,” and 10.6° to the right of Kaus Borealis, “the northern part of the bow,” (λ Sgr on the chart).
As the star’s name indicates, Sagittarius is referred to as the “Archer,” with a bow pulled back with its arrow ready to fly toward its target.
Bright morning planets, Jupiter and Saturn, are in the southeast before sunrise. Jupiter, brighter than all the stars in the sky this morning, is nearly 17° up in the southeastern sky. It is trekking eastward in Aquarius. The background stars are not bright. Use a binocular to spot them.
Jupiter is 4.8° to the upper left of Deneb Algiedi, “the kid’s tail” (δ Cap on the chart), 2.1° to the lower left of Mu Capricorni (μ Cap), and 1.5° to the upper right of ι Aqr.
Saturn is dimmer than Jupiter, but easily seen in the sky. The Ringed Wonder is 15.2° west (to the right in the northern hemisphere) of the Jovian Giant. During April, Jupiter increased the gap to Saturn by over 3°.
Saturn is about the same altitude as Kaus Borealis.
Saturn is slowly moving eastward compared to the stars of Capricornus. It is 1.0° to the right of Theta Capricorni (θ Cap).
Detailed Note: One hour before sunrise, the moon (18.3d, 85%) is over 20° above the southern horizon. The lunar orb is 16.0° to the upper left of Antares and 10.6° to the right of Kaus Borealis (λ Sgr, m = 2.8), the star at the top of the lid of the Teapot of Sagittarius. At this hour, Jupiter is nearly 17° above the southeast horizon. It is moving eastward in Aquarius, 4.8° to the left of Deneb Algiedi, 2.1° to the lower left of μ Cap, and 1.5° to the upper right of ι Aqr. Saturn is 15.2° of ecliptic longitude west of Jupiter, to the upper right of the Jovian Giant in the sky. Saturn is slowly creeping toward θ Cap. This morning the gap is 1.0°. The sun is in the sky for one minute longer than 14 hours. Twenty minutes after sunset, brilliant Venus is over 4° above the west-northwest horizon. Have you observed it without a binocular? Mercury (m = −1.1) is 4.5° above Venus. As the sky darkens further, Mars is less than 40° up in the west among the stars of Gemini. It is 2.5° to the upper right of Propus and 2.4° to the right of Tejat Posterior. Use a binocular to locate the star cluster M35, 2.4° to the lower right of Mars. The month ends with Mars 44.5° of ecliptic longitude east of Venus. As Venus becomes easier to see, watch it close the gap to Mars.
Read more about the planets during April 2021
- 2023, December 19: A Scorpion Fumble, Moon MidwayDecember 19, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus appears below the Scorpion’s claws. After sundown, the moon is nearly midway from Saturn to Jupiter.
- 2023, December 18: Pinched VenusDecember 18, 2023: Look for Venus between the Scorpion’s claws in the southeast before sunrise. The thick crescent moon is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn.
- 2023, December 17: Celestial PairsDecember 17, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus passes Zubenelgenubi, a planet-star conjunction. After sundown, Saturn and crescent moon are paired, a planet-moon conjunction.
- 2023, December 16: Venus Clawed, Evening Crescent Nears SaturnDecember 16, 2023: Before daybreak, Venus is above the Scorpion’s southern claw. After nightfall, the crescent moon nears Saturn.
- 2023, December 15: Brilliant Morning Star, Evening Lunar CrescentDecember 15, 2023: Before sunrise, brilliant Venus approaches Zubenelgenubi, the Scorpion’s southern claw. The crescent moon returns to the western evening sky.