|Photo: AP / NASA HO|
We have officially entered Saturn-watching season, and it's a special treat in telescopes.
Gaze toward the east after sunset and look for two stars that appear to be about the same brightness.
One of the stars is really a planet. Saturn is the creamy yellow speck, and Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, is the other point of light about 10 degrees below it.
Saturn will be a constant companion throughout the night, so there's plenty of time to admire this dazzling beauty. If you have already seen this masterpiece of ringed real estate, then I need say no more. But if you have not seen it, please don't waste any more time and go outside for a fascinating view.
You'll need a small telescope for the best experience, but binoculars will also allow a peek at the bejeweled ring system.
The rings are made up of chunks of ice and rocky debris that have been in existence since the formation of Saturn. Other bits are being continuously broken down by collisions within the ring system.
It's not a place you would want to fly through, although the scenery would be spectacular.
Saturn is the brightest it's been in several years, so that makes it even more appealing for April viewing.
After feasting on Saturn, check out Leo just above it. The regal lion sits almost overhead at 9 p.m.
Wednesday evening brings us a rather nice pairing of the moon and the Pleiades open star cluster. There is nothing better to put a smile on a face than this simply elegant arrangement in the night sky.
Thursday night has the moon in the midst of Taurus the bull.
Orion sits below Taurus and is a favorite of amateur skygazers.
A casual cruise through this popular constellation will reward you with an eye-filling view of the Orion Nebula. The nebula sits just below the three bright belt stars of Orion. It's a stunning gas cloud that has mesmerized countless armchair and professional astronomers for years.
To find this wonder of the night sky, look for a faint fuzzy patch of light below the belt stars in the sword of Orion.
If you need help locating this area, try the chart at utahskies.org/deepsky/messier/charts/m042.htm.
Skymaps.com also has free monthly star charts to help guide sky gazers to the right address.
It's best to catch Orion before 9 p.m. when it's still fairly high in the sky.