April 2020 has several beautiful events happening in the sky that might provide a distraction from the COVID-19 lockdown, something to look forward to, an opportunity to get out that telescope you've meaning to try, or even just events to cross off the calendar to acknowledge the passing of time.
Now: Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter in conjunction
One of the most exciting events is already happening. Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter are currently in conjunction, which means they appear to be very close to each other in the sky. The closest point of the conjunction was on March 31, but you can still see the planets with the naked eye for another few early mornings, so keep an eye out for them in the southeastern sky.
April 2: Venus and the Pleiades embrace
This week is Venus crossing the Pleiades. On April 2, the second innermost planet will appear just to the right of the famous star cluster in the constellation of Taurus, moving in front of the Pleiades (also known as the Seven Sisters) on April 3. If you care to find it, look to the western sky. Venus is one of the first things you’ll be able to see at twilight roughly 45 degrees above the horizon. As the sky darkens, the stars will begin to emerge. Should you miss it, you can watch it online here.
April 7: Super Pink Moon
Next week, on April 7, is the full Moon, and it will be a special one. This year, the traditionally named April pink moon (due to the pink spring flowers that appear this month) is also a supermoon, so it will appear brighter and larger than normal. In fact, it will be the brightest of the three supermoons of 2020.
April 10: Mercury-bound mission whizzes past Earth
This one is for those in the southern latitudes. BepiColombo, the European-Japanese Mercury-bound spacecraft, will swing past Earth as it performs a scheduled flyby to grab a gravity assist to launch it towards its goal. It will fly by Earth on April 10 at 00.25 am ET (4.25 am UTC/5.25 am BST), visible from east to west.
April 15: Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon, and Pluto put on a show
The third week of April’s celestial spectacle is best seen with a telescope (which ought to be over 20 centimeters or 8 inches). On April 15, Jupiter, and Saturn, the Moon, and Pluto will all be close to each other in the sky, making it easy to locate them. Without a telescope, you won’t be able to see Pluto but you’ll still be able to spot Jupiter and Saturn with just your eyes.
April 21-22: Lyrids meteor shower peaks
The fourth week will see the peak of the Lyrids meteor shower. This is one of the oldest recorded meteor showers. It's usually active from April 16 to 25, and will peak around April 21-22. It is not the most spectacular shower, but it is consistent, averaging about 20 meteors per hour on those nights.
April 28: Venus shows off
To conclude the month, on April 28, Venus will be at its brightest. It's best to look just after sunset towards the west or just before sunrise in the east to see the planet.
So there you have it, a month of celestial events to keep you entertained and to remind you that quarantine or no, if you've got access to a window, garden, or front porch, you should be able to catch sight of these beauties. When you do, think of all the other people looking up at the same objects. Self-isolation doesn't mean you're alone.