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What's Up for April 2013?
What's Up for April. Saturn's rings open wide. And meteors are marred by moonlight.
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Bright, golden Saturn rises in the late evening early in the month. Look low in the southeast below Virgo's bright star Spica.
Saturn's north pole is now tilted towards Earth, giving us the best view of the rings since 2006. The rings are tilted 18 degrees now and will be 22 degrees open by year end.
Through a telescope you'll see the swirling storm that NASA's Cassini spacecraft sees from a much closer vantage point.
Cassini is in an 'inclined' phase of the mission, meaning its orbit is tilted to cross the poles rather than circling the Equator. This phase will last until March 2015. The inclined phase will give us polar views of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and Saturn itself plus better vistas of Saturn's rings.
In April Cassini makes its 91st flyby of Titan, this time making a detailed sampling of the atmosphere.
Here's a roundup of viewing events to mark on your calendar.
On April 4 Comet PanSTARRS passes by M-31, the great Andromeda Galaxy. It will be visible only through telescopes, if at all.
Jupiter begins the month halfway up in the western sky at dusk but drops to only 20 degrees above the horizon by month's end.
On April 13 the moon joins the pretty star clusters of Taurus: the Pleiades and the Hyades. And it joins Jupiter the next night, the 14th.
The Lyrid meteor shower peaks on April 22, but a bright moon will mar the view.
On the 25th Saturn appears to the moon's upper left.
After opposition on April 28, when it's closest to Earth, Saturn will be at its brightest and biggest through a telescope in the early evening.
You can learn more about the Cassini Solstice mission at saturn.nasa.gov.
And you can learn about all of NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov.
That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.
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