Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, March 3, 2000.

The first week of March, and the countdown to Spring, is celebrated by the new Moon, the phase passed the night of Sunday, the 5th, around midnight. As the Moon descends through its thin waning crescent in morning twilight, it will appear to the east of Venus (which is getting more difficult to see as it slowly approaches superior conjunction with the Sun) the morning of Saturday, the 4th. The night of Friday, the 3rd, Venus will make a very close pass to Uranus. By the time the pair is visible the next morning, Venus will be a bit over half a degree east of the far more distant outer planet. The Moon's waxing crescent will become visible low in the western twilight sky the evening of Tuesday, the 7th. With its nighttime side glowing brightly from Earthlight, the crescent Moon will then make wonderful configurations with the three naked- eye outer planets, all in order of distance. The night of Wednesday, the 8th, the Moon will stand to the left of Mars, and on the night of Thursday the 9th it will be to the left of Jupiter and below Saturn, which it will pass the following day. Be sure to watch the western sky next Thursday evening.

Jupiter and Saturn, now both in direct motion to the east, are drawing together, as closer and speedier Jupiter begins to overtake the ringed planet. Both now deep in southern Aries, they provide a fine opportunity to watch planetary motion at work.

As spring approaches, the Sun enters a period of particularly fast northerly movement that is obvious almost day to day. Moving northward at a pace of almost 0.4 degrees per day, one can easily note the northward progression of the point of sunrise and sunset along the horizon. The warmth of the coming season follows along behind.

As winter slips away to be replaced by spring flowers, Orion slips to the west to be replaced by a variety of celestial delights. By mid evening, the Big Dipper, which makes the back end and tail of Ursa Major, the Greater Bear, is midway up the northeastern sky, standing on its handle, its front bowl stars pointing leftward at Polaris, the North Star. Halfway up the eastern sky is that traditional harbinger of spring, Leo, the Lion, made notable by his sickle-shaped head. The sickle's southern end is the bright star Regulus, which is only a half-degree (the angular width of the full Moon) north of the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun. Above Leo's back, between the Lion and the North Star's pointers in the Dipper, is the obscure modern constellation Leo Minor, the Smaller Lion, which is a challenge to see in the lights of town.
Valid HTML 4.0!