April Moon & Planet data for 2014

The Solar System in April 2014

All dates and times are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) until April 6. After this date times are NZST. (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

NZDT comes to an end on Sunday April 6 at 3 am when clocks should be set back an hour to NZST. New Zealand time will then be 12 hours ahead of UTC.

Sunrise at Wellington ranges from 7.33 am NZDT on April 1 to 7.04 am NZST on April 30, while Sunset ranges from 7.15 pm NZDT on the 1st to 5.31 pm NZST on the 31st

Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: April  7 at  8.31 pm (08:31 UT)
Full moon:     April 15 at  7.42 pm (07:42 UT) total eclipse
Last quarter   April 22 at  7.52 pm (07:52 UT)
New moon:      April 29 at  6.14 pm (06:14 UT)

A TOTAL ECLIPSE of the moon occurs at the full moon on April 15. The total phase of the eclipse starts at 7.06 pm and ends at 8.25 pm. All the total phase is visible from NZ. At the start the moon will be fairly low for NZ.

The moon starts to enter the umbra of the Earth’s shadow at 5.58 pm. This is just a few minutes after moonrise for most places in NZ, but 1 minute before moonrise at Invercargill. The moon leaves the umbra at 9.33 pm and the penumbra at 10.38 pm. (Times are taken from Dave Herald’s OCCULT program.)

This total eclipse is the first of 4 successive total lunar eclipses, two each in 2014 and 2015. The first 3 will be visible from New Zealand.

A PARTIAL ECLIPSE of the Sun occurs on April 29. No part of the eclipse is visible from NZ. From Australia the eclipse occurs in the afternoon, with the Sun setting during the eclipse in eastern Australia. For Brisbane and Newcastle the Sun sets just before maximum eclipse.

From the south of Australia about two-thirds of the Sun is hidden, the maximum is 68% at Hobart. The amount of the Sun hidden drops to just below 10% in the north at Darwin.

The Planets in April

Mars is at opposition on April 8 so will be at its brightest during April and visible in the evening sky. Jupiter is in the evening sky, and will set mid evening by the end of April. Saturn is visible late evening at first, most of the evening by the end of the month. It is also visible in the morning sky

Venus is an obvious morning object rising nearly 4 hours before the Sun. Mercury is visible in the morning sky early in the month, but is lost to view by about mid April.

MERCURY is readily visible in the early dawn sky for the first part of April. On the first it rises about 2 hours before the Sun and has a magnitude -0.2. It will be about 10° up almost due east 50 minutes before sunrise. Over the following nights the planet will gradually rise later so be lower in the morning sky. But it will also brighten making it a little easier to see.

By mid April Mercury will rise only one hour before the Sun, so will be very low and lost to view about this date.

Mercury is at superior conjunction with the Sun on the 26th, marking its return to the evening sky. At conjunction the planet will be 198.6 million km from the Earth (1.3AU) and 48 million km beyond the Sun (0.32 AU). From the Earth it will appear to pass the Sun only 6 arc-minutes from the southern limb of the Sun (about 1-5th of the Sun’s diameter).

VENUS remains prominent in the morning sky until shortly before sunrise. Venus itself rises about 3 hours 50 minutes before the Sun at the beginning of April, and 3 hours 40 minutes earlier at the end of the month.

During April Venus crosses the constellation Aquarius, which it moves into from Capricornus on the 4th and leaves on the 29th when it moves into Pisces. The 14% lit crescent moon is 4.5° to the left of Venus on the 26th. Earlier in the month, on the morning of April 12, Venus will be 47 arc-minutes from Neptune, a distance about 1.5 times the diameter of the full moon.

MARS is at opposition on April 8 with a magnitude -1.5, so a bright object, rising close to the time of Sunset. By late evening it will be a prominent object just a few degrees from Spica. At opposition the planet will be 93 million km, 0.62 AU, from the Earth. Due to the elliptical nature of the Martian orbit, Mars is closest to the Earth a few days later on the 14th when it will be 92.4 million km from us. On the 14th the angular diameter of Mars will be 15.15 arc-seconds, on the 8th it is 15.07”.

Also on the 14th, the almost full Moon will, as seen from the Earth, be some 4° from Mars. Despite the brightness of the Moon, Mars should still be visible near it.

Throughout April Mars is in Virgo a few degrees from Spica. It will also be about 12° from the two largest asteroids, Ceres and Vesta.

JUPITER will be easily seen, if rather low, early in April evenings. At first it sets just after midnight, NZDT. By the end of April it will set about 9.30 pm. Jupiter is currently well north of the celestial equator, so low in southern skies. Hence, particularly late in April, the planet will be low quite early in the evening.

Jupiter is in Gemini all month just over 2° from the 3.0 magnitude star epsilon Gem. The moon passes Jupiter quite early in the month. On the 6th the 40% lit moon will be 8° to the left of Jupiter. The following night, the moon at first quarter will be slightly closer to Jupiter, 7° away and almost directly above the planet.

SATURN rises about 9.00 pm on April 1, and 6.00 pm on the 30th. Hence it will be best seen late in the evening, especially early in the month. Unlike Jupiter, Saturn is well south of the celestial equator so rises to a good altitude as seen from southern latitudes.

The planet is at present in Libra, forming a triangle with the two brightest stars of the constellation, the double star alpha Lib and beta Lib. Beta is in fact very slightly brighter than alpha.

On the 17th, two days after full moon and the eclipse, the moon will be close to Saturn. When the two rise ca 7.15 pm, they will be about 30 arc-minutes apart, one moon diameter. A couple of hours later when at a reasonable altitude, the separation of the two will have increased to 1.5°, 3 lunar diameters.

Earlier, before the moon rises in NZ, it will occult Saturn. This occultation is visible from a broad band across the south Pacific before crossing the southern part of South America.

Outer Planets

Uranus is at conjunction with the Sun on April 2, so will be too close to the Sun to observe. After conjunction it moves into the morning sky, rising shortly before the Sun. By the end of April, Uranus will rise just over 2 hours before the Sun and be 11° up an hour before sunrise. It will also be 11° below and to the right of Venus.

Neptune is also in the morning sky but considerably higher than Uranus. On the 1st it will be about 11° below Venus. On the morning of the 12th Venus will be 47 arc-minutes, 1.5 lunar diameters, to the left of Neptune. At magnitude 7.9, the latter should be visible through a binocular. There will be a 6.6 magnitude 10 arc minutes from Neptune at about the 7 o’clock position compared to the planet.

Brighter Asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta continue to be a close pair of asteroids throughout April. The two are about 2.5° apart in Virgo so easily in the same binocular field. The two asteroids are about 12° from Mars and slightly further from Spica. In the evening they will below the planet and star. Following the opposition of Mars on the 9th, the asteroids are at opposition and so brightest just after mid April. Vesta is then at magnitude 5.8 and Ceres 7.0. At the beginning and end of April they are each 0.2 magnitudes fainter.

(2) Pallas starts April at magnitude 7.7 and ends the month at 8.4. Pallas is in the evening sky, with a transit at 10.20 pm on the 1st and 7.42 pm on the 30th. The asteroid starts April in Hydra, but moves into Leo on the 9th where its path through the stars swings Pallas towards Regulus. The two are a little under 4° apart on the 30th.

The follwing table lists various solar system object events during April. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

April 2 Uranus at conjunction
April 4 Aldebaran 2.0 degrees south of the Moon
April 5 Moon northern most declination (19.0 degrees)
April 6 Jupiter 5.3 degrees north of the Moon
April 7 Moon first quarter
April 8 Moon at apogee
Mars at opposition
April 10 Regulus 4.9 degrees north of the Moon
April 12 Venus 0.7 degrees north of Neptune
April 14 Mars nearest to Earth
Mars 3.3 degrees north of the Moon
Mercury 1.2 degrees south of Uranus
April 15 Pluto stationary
Spica 1.7 degrees south of the Moon
Moon full Eclipse
April 17 Saturn 0.4 degrees north of the Moon Occn
April 19 Moon southern most declination (-19.0 degrees)
April 21 Pluto 2.4 degrees south of the Moon
April 22 Moon last quarter
April 23 Moon at perigee
April 24 Neptune 4.8 degrees south of the Moon
April 25 Venus 4.1 degrees south of the Moon
April 26 Mercury superior conjunction
April 27 Uranus 1.9 degrees south of the Moon
April 29 Moon new Eclipse
Mercury 1.6 degrees north of the Moon
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • conjunction: Two astronomical objects are 'lined up' (have the same right ascension) when viewed from Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • superior conjunction: Conjunction where the Sun is between the Earth another solar system object