March 2015

To see a video of this information, go to my YouTube Channel

March brings us (hopefully) warmer weather, the spring equinox, and good views of Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn, depending on when you’re awake.


PLANETS...well, the ones visible with your naked eye

Planets you can see around Sunset –Venus (W), Mars (W), Jupiter (E)

Planets you can see throughout the night – Jupiter (SEàW)

Planets you can see in the Morning – Saturn (S)

 

Mercury – Not really worth looking for this month.

Venus Venus is making its way up the sky each night.  Just look West after sunset and it will be the first “star” you see.  If you have binoculars or a telescope, you may be able to see the gibbous phase of Venus. Close to the Moon on the 22nd.

Mars – Look in the West after sunset and look for the visibly red “star” hanging out below Venus. It won’t last long, and sets closer and closer to sunset as the month goes by, and gets harder to see. Close to the Moon on the 21st, but very hard to find

Jupiter – Jupiter is already high up in the SE after sunset, so watch Jupiter move from the SE to the South to the West by 5am EDT. If you know your constellations, look to the right of Leo in Cancer.  Don’t forget the binoculars or telescope for the Galilean Moons and the cloud bands on its surface.  Close to the Moon on the night of the 6th. 

Saturn – Saturn rises in the SE around 2am at the beginning of this month, and rises earlier and higher as the month goes on eventually rising at midnight EDT by month’s end. Close to the Moon on the 12th in the morning.


EVENTS...

Full Moon – 5th (Visible all night)

6thClose Encounter – Moon, Jupiter – Get out after sunset and look SE for a Gibbous Moon with Jupiter 6˚ up and to the left. 

12thClose Encounter – Moon, Saturn – Get out after 1:30am EDT and look East for a gibbous Moon with Saturn 2˚ down and to the right. By 5:30am, they’ll be in the South.

Last Quarter Moon – 13th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

New Moon – 20th (darkest skies) – ALSO - Total Solar Eclipse, however the path of totality for this eclipse will be limited to the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans between Greenland and northern Russia (http://www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-current.html)

20th - Spring Equinox - Astronomically the first day of Spring, even though meteorologically Spring starts in the beginning of March.  Here’s some more info.

21stClose Encounter – Moon, Mars – Get out around sunset (7:15pm) and wait until you can see the VERY thin crescent Moon in the East.  Only 2˚to the right and up from the Moon is Mars.  The dusk and the relative thinness of the Moon will make this difficult, but not impossible if you have a good view of the horizon.

22ndClose Encounter – Moon, Venus – Get out around sunset again and wait until you can see either the first “star” which is Venus, or the thin crescent Moon.  The Moon will be easier to see than yesterday, due to it being thicker as well as higher in the sky.  Venus will be just 3 degrees to the right of the Moon.

First Quarter Moon – 27th (Visible until midnight)

 

CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

After Sunset (sunset is around 5:30-6:30pm) – Auriga (Taurus is right nearby), Gemini

Between Sunset and Midnight – Cancer, Gemini, Lynx, and Leo later in the month - Extra Challenge! Find M44 in the Middle of Cancer – an open cluster of stars also known as the Beehive Cluster.  You may be able to see it as a small fuzzy patch with your naked eye if you have very dark skies.  However with a pair of binoculars or a telescope on low power, it will look like a hive of bees in the distance, hence its nickname.

Midnight – Leo, Leo Minor, Ursa Major’s legs

Early Morning – Corona Borealis, Hercules, Boötes (you can also find the Big Dipper’s handle, and starting from the inside of the handle, follow the arc that those four stars make past the last star in the handle about 30˚ or three fist-widths to the next very bright star you find which is Arcturus, the base of the constellation Boötes.  Hence astronomers use the phrase “Follow the Arc to Arcturus”)

GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS: 

Winter constellations:  Orion is easy to spot as he is high in the south as the Sun sets.  You can use Orion to find many other winter constellations.

Using Orion:  Find Orion by looking for the three stars in a row that make up Orion’s belt in the South after 7pm.  If you draw a line from the left star to the right star and keep going right about 20 degrees (about 2 fists at arm’s length) until you reach another very bright star, you will have reached the star Aldebaron in Taurus (the V).  Follow that line a little more (about another fist) and you’ll find the Pleiades.

If you start at his belt again, but instead go the opposite way and draw a line from the right star in Orion’s belt to the left star, and keep going left about 20 degrees (2 fists again), you’ll come to the brightest star in the sky – Sirius – part of Canis Major.

Above these three constellations are Gemini and Auriga.  The brightest stars in each of these constellations form a circle in the sky.  Going clockwise - Aldebaron (Taurus) – Rigel (Orion – bottom right foot) – Sirius (Canis Major) – Procyon (Canis Minor) – Castor & Pollux (Gemini) – Capella (Auriga).  It makes for great stargazing in the winter sky.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

 



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