Griffith Observatory Sky Report through April 27th, 2016

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This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through April 27th, 2016. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.

The moon is full on Thursday night, the 21st. By Saturday the 23rd, the rising of the waning gibbous moon coincides with the end of astronomical twilight, at 9:02 p.m. By Tuesday the 25th, moonrise occurs at 11:38 p.m.

Mercury will fade from view in the evening sky by Friday, April 22nd. Before then, it is visible about 10 degrees above the west-northwest horizon at the start of nautical twilight, at 7:57 p.m. A telescope can reveal Mercury’s crescent phase.

Brilliant Jupiter, in the constellation Leo the Lion, is high in the southeast sky after sunset, and transits 64 degrees above the southern horizon shortly before 10:00 p.m. The giant planet sets in the west at about 4:15 a.m. Observers with telescopes will be able to see Jupiter’s famous oval storm, the Great Red Spot, by looking at the planet at 9:00 p.m. on Thursday the 21st, Sunday the 24th, and Tuesday the 26th.

The red planet Mars appears to the upper right of Saturn after both planets clear the east-southeast horizon by 11:00 p.m. Mars and Saturn appear side-by-side in the constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer when they straddle the meridian at 4:00 a.m., and are then well placed for telescopic inspection. The bright orange star below Mars is Antares, the brightest star of the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. Through a telescope, Mars reveals white polar caps and regions covered by clouds, as well as dark markings, actually rocky outcroppings blown relatively clean of the pervasive ochre-hued dust that otherwise blankets the planet. A telescope is also required to see Saturn’s magnificent rings. The waning gibbous moon is above the midpoint of both planets on Monday morning, the 25th.

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, May 14th.

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