Jupiter’s colourful atmosphere proves visually stunning through a telescope of any size. Saturday, March 31
Jupiter stands out in the western sky after sunset all week. This evening, it appears about one-quarter of the way to the zenith half an hour after the Sun goes down and doesn’t set until 10 p.m. local daylight time. The giant planet shines at magnitude –2.1, which makes it the night sky’s second-brightest point of light after Venus. When viewed through a telescope, Jupiter spans 34" and reveals an alternating series of darker belts and lighter zones under good conditions. Sunday, April 1
The Big Dipper’s familiar shape rides high in the northeast on April evenings. The spring sky’s finest binocular double star marks the bend of the Dipper’s handle. Mizar shines at 2nd magnitude, some six times brighter than its 4th-magnitude companion, Alcor. Even though these two are not physically related, they make a fine sight through binoculars. (People with good eyesight often can split the pair without optical aid.) A small telescope reveals Mizar itself as double — and these components do orbit each other.