The early stage of planning is underway to fly an airplane-type craft over the surface of Mars.

The concept, which follows on from the success of Nasa’s Ingenuity helicopter, will see the craft travel some 1,000ft in height over Martian terrain, studying the planet’s features and searching for evidence of potential previous life. The craft already has a name, MAGGIE – ‘Mars Aerial and Ground Intelligent Explorer’, and will potentially serve a two-year mission, with its power drawn from the Sun by an array of solar panels.

Total Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse will occur today but with only some parts of the globe able to witness totality itself.

A total solar eclipse is a rare event, with each place on Earth only expecting to see a total solar eclipse once every 400 years.

In the UK, we will have to wait until September 23rd, 2090, but much of Wales will still have the chance to witness a partial solar eclipse on April 8.

Aside the south-east corner of Wales, much of the principality will see a partial solar eclipse but it will be incredibly short-lived.

From Newport, the eclipse will begin at 19:56:29, the moment the edge of the Moon touches the edge of the Sun, known as ‘first contact’.

At 19:57:27 we reach the deepest point of the eclipse with the Sun being at its most hidden.

At 19:57:51, the Sun will be setting so the remainder of the partial total eclipse which ends at 21:36:56 will be lost.

Naturally, the further west you are, the more time you will have to see the Sun in its partially eclipsed state before it sets.

Please remember to exercise caution viewing the partial eclipse and never directly look using a pair of binoculars of a telescope.


Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks continues its journey across the evening sky during April making for an interesting target in both binoculars and a small telescope.

Currently in the constellation of Aries, the comet may well reach naked-eye visibility but given the encroaching twilight as the light during the evening begin to lengthen, the first part of April looks like being the best opportunity to catch the comet.

Named after co-discoverers, French astronomer Jean Louis-Pons, (1761-1831), and British-born American astronomer William Robert Brooks, (1844-1921), the comet’s next appearance in our neck of the woods won’t be until 2095.

As darkness falls, positioned yourself looking in a west-northwest direction and try and track the comet as it appears to slowly move night after night.

From the start of April and using a pair of binoculars, sweep left from Hamal, the brightest star in the constellation of Aries.

By mid-month, the comet will be the south of Jupiter offering a good opportunity to catch Pons-Brooks despite the twilight. Steadily sweep the area below Jupiter on the nights of Thursday April 11 to Saturday April 13.


Jupiter continues to dominate the evening sky during April and despite setting around 10pm, makes for a wonderful sight, ‘outshining’ everything else in the night sky.

Situated in the constellation of Aries, watch for a lovely pairing on the evening of Wednesday April 10 with the waxing crescent Moon.

While we still have Jupiter on view, a pair of binoculars somewhere in the 10x50’s range, or indeed a small telescope, should reveal the four inner moons of the planet: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. By the end of April, Jupiter will be lost in the twilight, so April’s apparition is going to be the best chance of 2024 to view Jupiter in the evening.

For all the other planets, poor positioning means that for Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Saturn, observations are virtually impossible during April.

Meteor Shower

The annual Lyrids meteor shower gets underway on Monday April 15, lasting until Monday April 29. The shower will peak late in the evening of Sunday April 21 going into the morning of Monday April 22, and it’s during this window that you’ll have the best opportunity to see the display.

The meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, (hence the Lyrids name), with the Zenith Hourly Rate, (ZHR - number of meteors expected during peak activity), around the 15 to 20.

The Lyrids appear to be in steady phase of generating low double-figure numbers, but outbursts have been recorded whereby the debris stream associated with the shower has produced 100-plus meteors per hour. However, this is extremely unlikely this year, given this plateau that the Lyrids appears to be in at present. The shower itself is quite a short affair with no real build-up to the maximum, meaning that the actual peak of the Lyrids is quite narrow.

Entering the atmosphere at around 107,000 mph, the rubble left in the wake of Comet Thatcher will burn up around 55 miles above us in the Earth’s atmosphere, in some cases blazing across the sky, hence the term ‘shooting star’

Full Moon

April’s full Moon occurs on Wednesday 24 and has been tagged with the name of a Pink full Moon. This tag was the name given by native American tribes who witnessed the springtime bloom of the wildflower Phlox subulata.

Beginner’s Corner

As a help to beginners to find their way around the night sky, use the Moon during April to try and locate some bright stars on view.

On Friday April 12 the Moon is positioned to the north of Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus.

On Monday April 15 the Moon is positioned to the south of Pollux, the brightest star in the constellation of Gemini.

On Thursday April 18, the Moon is positioned to the north of Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.

On Tuesday April 23 the Moon is positioned to the north of Spica, the brightest star in Virgo.

On Friday April 26 the Moon is positioned to the north of Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius.


The death of Alyn Wallace has been widely reported in the world of astronomy and in particular Alyn’s chosen specialist field of astrophotography.

Alyn, 34, from Pontypridd, made a considerable contribution to the field and gained a great deal of respect from those who followed his work and YouTube videos.

While I did not know Alyn personally, a close astronomer friend of his has given The Night Sky their own tribute.

Dafydd Wyn Morgan wrote: “Such an inspiration and gifted individual. A role model with an incredible legacy following his untimely death. His photos of the Cambrian Mountains and Wales night skies will be a record of how special a place this country is in terms of dark skies. Wales has truly lost one of its greats. An unsung hero who never won a cap, an award, or medal…. But to me was the Gareth Edwards of night photography. World-class.”

Society meetings

Barry Astronomical Society. Monday April 22. 7pm. ‘Welsh Meteorite Falls’ – Dave Powell. Barry Community Centre, Cemetery Road, Barry, CF62 8BP.

Bridgend Astronomical Society. Wednesday April 17. 7pm. ‘Life in the Universe’ – Prof Matthew Griffin. Bridgend Tennis, Squash, and Bowls Club, Halo Rec Centre, Angel Street, CF31 4AH.

Cardiff Astronomical Society. Thursday April 11. 7.30pm. ‘Gas Flows and the Abundance of Elements in Galaxies’ – Prof Mike Edmunds. Cardiff University, Queen’s Buildings, The Parade, Cardiff, CF24 3AA.

Heads of the Valleys Astronomical Society: Tuesday April 9. 7pm. ‘Telescopes’ – Tony Pearce. Learning Action Centre, 20 James Street, Ebbw Vale, NP23 6JG

Moon phases

New Moon April 8; First Quarter April 15; Full Moon April 24.

Sunrise/sunset times

Start of April: Sun rises at 6.46am. Sets at 7.46pm. End of April: Sun rises at 5.44am. Sets at 8.34pm.