This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Here is what’s happening in the skies of southern California:
Jupiter, located in Gemini the Twins, is the brilliant planet that appears overhead after sunset. Jupiter sets in the west-northwest at 2:20 a.m. Jupiter’s giant oval storm, the Great Red Spot, can be seen through telescopes early in the evening from the west coast on March 26th, 28th, 31st and April 2nd. Jupiter is currently the planet displayed in Griffith Observatory’s public telescopes.
Orange planet Mars is noticeable in the southeast shortly after it rises around 8:00 p.m. Mars outshines Virgo the Maiden’s brightest star, Spica, and is now located 5 degrees northeast of Spica. Mars is best positioned for telescopic observation at 2:00 a.m. when it is highest in the southern sky, but it is high enough for a sharp view starting at 11:00 p.m. This week, the most prominent dark feature of Mars, the triangular region called Syrtis Major, faces observers in the Pacific Time zone. Also visible is a large oval white patch on the north portion of Mars. This is the 1,100 mile-wide impact basin called Hellas. The floor of Hellas is also the lowest elevation on Mars, about 6 miles deeper than the average elevation of the planet. Currently Hellas is covered in frost and clouds, and it can be seen easily through astronomical telescopes.
Saturn, in Libra the Scales, appears golden and is easy to see in the southeast by 11:00 p.m. The ringed planet is highest in the south at 4:00 a.m.
Venus, the brightest planet, rises in the east-southeast at 4:35 a.m. and is still visible in the southeast at sunrise. It now shows a gibbous phase through a telescope.
The moon appears in the early morning in waning crescent phase until the 29th. It is new on the 30th and appears above the western horizon in waxing crescent phase after sunset on the 31st. The moon appears close to Venus on the 27th.
The International Space Station makes its most-visible passage through the Los Angeles sky on the morning of April 1. The ISS will outshine anything else as it crosses the sky from northwest to east-southeast between 5:44 and 5:50 a.m. The satellite appears 59 degrees high in the northeast at 5:47 a.m.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes, Tuesday through Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, April 5.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.