April astronomy: parade of planets, return of meteor showers

By Brian Lada,
A full blood moon sets behind the Manhattan skyline during a total lunar eclipse in New York City on November 8. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A full blood moon sets behind the Manhattan skyline during a total lunar eclipse in New York City on November 8. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

The weather is becoming more conducive for comfortable stargazing across North America with temperatures gradually rising as spring progresses. The new month will have plenty of night sky events for folks to enjoy.

April also marks one year until the next total solar eclipse over the United States, which could be even more impressive than the 2017 Great American Eclipse.


From the return of meteor showers to a picturesque planetary parade, here are the top astronomy events to mark on your April calendar.

The first full moon of spring will kick off April's astronomical agenda, illuminating the night sky on Wednesday into the morning of Thursday.

RELATED Space X sets Saturday launch date for Space Force satellites after second delay

April's full moon is commonly called the Pink Moon, not due to the color the moon will appear in the sky but rather in relation to wild ground phlox. This wildflower is usually one of the first to bloom in spring and has pink petals, serving as the inspiration behind the full moon's nickname.


Other nicknames for April's full moon include the Frog Moon, Breaking Ice Moon, Broken Snowshoe Moon and Sugar Maker Moon, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac.

Mercury is the most elusive planet to see with the unaided eye due to its close proximity to the sun, but during the second week of April, skywatchers will have a brief window of opportunity to see the planet in the evening sky.

RELATED Boeing pushes Starliner test flight to July

The planet will appear above the western horizon after sunset on April 11 and will hang so low in the sky that trees or buildings could block views of Mercury. It may also be challenging to spot as it is a dim planet, but two other planets will help guide stargazers to discover Mercury around the middle of the month.

Mars and Venus will align with Mercury during the second week of April, creating a picture-perfect celestial sight. April 11 will be the best night for spotting the trio, but the alignment should be visible throughout the entire week, weather permitting.

There has been an absence of meteor showers in recent months, with the most recent one taking place on the third night of 2023. The extended meteor shower drought will come to an end on Earth Day as the Lyrids peak.


Experts expect around 15 to 20 meteors per hour on the night of April 22, into the early morning of April 23, according to the American Meteor Society. This will be a good year for the Lyrids as the shower peaks two nights after a new moon, meaning moonlight will not wash out any of the dimmer shooting stars. In 2022, a nearly full moon outshined many of the meteors associated with the Lyrids.

The Lyrids will be followed by the peak of the Eta Aquarids two weeks later, one of the year's best meteor showers for the Southern Hemisphere.

One of the top astronomical events of the decade will unfold on April 8, 2024, as the sun, moon and Earth align perfectly to create a total solar eclipse over North America.

The majority of the continent will experience a partial solar eclipse. Still, a narrow zone from Mexico to Atlantic Canada will witness the moon completely block out the sun for several minutes. This path will extend from central Texas through northern New England in the United States.

"The opportunity to see an eclipse without traveling internationally should not be missed," expert eclipse photographer Gordon Telepun told AccuWeather.

2020 total solar eclipse path of totality

Anyone planning to watch the total solar eclipse or partial solar eclipse will need to purchase specially designed eclipse glasses to view the event safely. Experts urge people to procure these glasses sooner rather than later as they could be difficult to find in the weeks leading up to the eclipse.

The American Astronomical Society has a list of reputable vendors that comply with the solar filter standard, known as ISO 12312-2. If a solar filter does not have this number printed on them, then it may not be safe to use.

After the 2024 eclipse, another total solar eclipse will not be visible from the contiguous United States until 2044.

Latest Headlines