This Month's Night Sky - NOTE: The next paragraph describes the sky as it appears at 10 pm EST (11 pm EDT) near mid- month. The sky also looks this way at 11 pm EST (midnight EDT) during the beginning of the month and at 9 pm EST (10 pm EDT) by month's end.
A large asterism, the "Winter Triangle", appears directly overhead. It is an inverted triangle formed by three bright stars: Procyon (Canis Minor) upper left, Betelgeuse (Orion) upper right and Sirius (Canis Major) below center. The Big Dipper (Ursa Major's famous asterism) stands high in the NE with its "handle" still pointing towards the horizon. Follow the handle's curve to orange star Arcturus (Bootes). Look for Cassiopeia's "W" asterism high in the NW. To the S, Orion dominates the sky while Aldebaran (Taurus) followed by the Pleiades star cluster drops below the horizon by 3 AM. Regulus (Leo) now rises in the SE. If you live in a dark site region, don't forget to observe the Milky Way's (our spiral galaxy) arm hat passes through Cassiopeia. It will not be visible in bright Moon light or in the cities.
MERCURY morning apparition favors observers in the southern hemisphere. VENUS, rises in the higher in morning sky reaching greatest elongation W. this month. JUPITER, in the constellation of Gemini is still shining most of the night. The giant planet will be at its northernmost point in 24-years this month. MARS, begins retrograde motion early in the month in Virgo moves back toward Spica. Look for the red planet amd first magnitude Spica, as they dance with the Moon this month. SATURN rises around midnight, also beginning in retrograde motion early in the month. Plaents in regrade move in the opposite direction of their usual path on the ecliptic.
Review how to determine Angular Measurement.
NOTE: For those observers not in the ET zone, convert the calendar times to your zone's time by subtracting one hour for CT, two for MT and three for PT. Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time when necessary by subtracting one hour from your planisphere's time. Dawn and dusk times must also be corrected. See your local newspaper, TV news, or cable TV's Weather Channel for sunrise and sunset times. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.
|09||Daylight savings time begins.|
|10||Jupiter 5 deg N. of Moon.|
|11||The Moon is at apogee. Jupiter farthest N. declination in a 24-year period from 2002-2026.|
|04||Early morning risers with a good E. horizon may spot Venus and Mercury 20 deg. apart.|
|18||Look W from a dark location, at about an hour after sunset, to view zodiacal light. ("Zodiacal light" is a vertical band of white light believed to be sunlight reflected from meteoriods found in the plane of the ecliptic, the apparent "path" of the Sun, Moon and Planets as they travel across our sky.) It will appear to be a very large, but very dim, pyramid of of white light, "leaning" to the left. May be seen for the next two weeks.|
Spica (Alpha Virginis)1.7 deg S. of the Moon.
|22||Venus at greatest elongation W.|
Equinox, the length of night and day are the same.
|21||Saturn .2 deg N. of the Moon, an occultation in S. America and S. Africa.|
|22||Mercury 1.2 deg S. of Neptune.|
|27||Venus .4 deg S. of the Moon.
Moon at perigee.
|29||Mercury 6 deg S. of the Moon.|
|31||Mars 3 deg N. of the Moon.|
|Phases of the Moon||Phase and Date(s)||Best viewed before local midnight|
01 and 30
|Deep Space Objects|
|Planets & Moon|
|Deep Space & Planets|
March brings the equinox, marking the division between Winter and Spring. On March 20, the daylight hours will be equal to the hours of darkness. There is still time to view the winter constellations, if you do so before midnight. Don't miss Hydra, low in the south. It contains the bright Messier object, M 48, a star cluster of about 80 stars sometimes visible to the sharp eyed; as well as M 83, a spiral that can be difficult in small aperture telescopes. Hydra also contains a ninth magnitude planetary nebula that rivals the disk of Jupiter in size, NGC 3242 is sometimes called the "Ghost of Jupiter" for this reason. The star labeled Epsilon is a close double needing high power to split, while 54 Hydrae is much easier. Variable Star observers will look for the red giant marked U Hydrae which fluctuates in naked eye range.
Unlike deep sky observing, planetary observing is possible from the city. Bright planets don't need the absolute darkness that is so essential to the faint fuzzies. Haze from the city usually won't hamper the view; it sometimes seems to help! Many novices note that planets don't "twinkle" like the stars, this is because they are "disks" rather than point sources and their light is spread out more. Different atmospheric conditions favor different objects and planets have there own favorite conditions. Atmospheric turbulence causes stars to twinkle more radically and make subtle features harder to detect on the planets. A hazy night often seems to help observing planets.This winter we have been blessed by the northern passage of the planet Jupiter as it has been riding high in Gemini. Saturn is moving into the evening sky and the planet Mars will be at opposition on April 8 so the next few weeks will provide excellent opportunities for observing the planets. Amateur astronomers may try using various filters to bring out details on the surface. Blue or yellow filters work best on Jupiter while orange and red filters may enhance surface details on Mars as well as cut down on glare. Yellow filters might reveal dust storms in the atmosphere. Mars looks best when subjected to high magnification, as much as observing conditions will accommodate. Saturn's atomosphere can also be enhanced by filters, but the details on our distant cousin will probably require a large apeture instrument.
Please dress warmly if you are observing from a high northern latitude.
--See You Under the Stars!
Astra for Astra's Almanac
This installment of "Whats Up?" is ©2014 by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. View Ron Leeseburg's Farewell Issue for information on where to find information such as is presented in this almanac.