Griffith Observatory Sky Report through April 5th, 2017

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This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through April 5th, 2017. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.

The crescent moon will help you to identify the early evening planets on Wednesday the 29th. At 7:45 p.m., the sky should be dark enough to find the crescent moon low in the western sky. Two objects, appearing like bright stars, appear in the moon’s vicinity. Red hued Mars, in the constellation Aries the Ram, is to the Moon’s upper right, while the innermost planet, Mercury, is to the moon’s lower right. Even though the fast-moving moon moves away from the planets, they will remain close to the same position in the sky during evening twilight through April 5.

The waxing moon now lights the sky nightly for increasingly long periods. Because of this, the time of moonset advances from 9:15 p.m. on March 29th to 3:17 a.m. on April 5th. The moon’s phase changes from crescent to first quarter on the 3rd, and is gibbous afterward. The moon is currently featured through Griffith Observatory’s public telescopes.

The brilliant planet Jupiter, in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, is obvious and low in the eastern sky before twilight is finished. The giant planet is visible nearly all night long. It climbs to its highest in the southern sky at about 1:30 a.m., then starts its slow descent to the western horizon, which it nearly reaches by sunrise. Jupiter’s four large Galilean satellites can be glimpsed through steadily held binoculars. Use a telescope to see Jupiter’s famous oval storm, the Great Red Spot. It will be on the side of Jupiter facing Los Angeles at 10:00 p.m. on March 25th and 30th as well as on April 1st and 4th.

The planet Saturn, in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, is noticeable in the southeastern sky by 2:00 a.m., and is at its highest in the south at about 6:00 a.m. A telescope is needed to see the spectacular rings of Saturn.

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 from Tuesday through Sunday, before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the schedule. The next free 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 1st, from 2:00 p.m. until 9:45 p.m.

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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at