Photo of the Week.Late afternoon sunset over the waters.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, March 6, 2009.
The Moon waxes through gibbous the early
part of the week, reaching full phase on
Tuesday, March 10, during mid-evening, so we can watch it at its
best. It then fades through waning
gibbous during the week's remainder. At almost exactly the
same time as the Moon passes full, it also passes directly south of
Saturn, the two sort of
making an upside down exclamation point. Earlier in the week, on
Saturday the 7th, our satellite goes through perigee, where
and when it will be a bit over 5 percent closer than the average of
384,400 kilometers (238,900 miles).
Saturn, which has been coming on the scene for months now, hits its
apex as it passes opposition with the Sun on Sunday the 8th, when it
rises at sunset, sets at sunrise (hence is up all night), and
crosses the meridian to the south at
midnight (explaining why it and the full Moon rendezvous so
nicely). Look for it southeast of Regulus in Leo. The early show, however, still belongs to
Venus, which, though setting earlier (around 8:30 PM),
dominates the twilight western sky. On the other side of the sky,
Jupiter, now rising at the beginning of morning
twilight, is becoming increasingly visible. In contrast to the
glory of Venus and Saturn, the two outer planets make invisible
news, as Uranus passes
conjunction with the Sun on Thursday the 12th, and Neptune comes
into conjunction with Mars on
Saturday the 7th, Mars still in bright twilight and almost
impossible to see.
makes its way this week through Cancer and Gemini.
As the week begins, it is just south of Cancer's Beehive Cluster. Passing into
Gemini the night of MOnday the 9th, the comet will be seven degrees
south of Pollux (Gemini's
brightest star) toward the end of the week. Unfortunately the
bright Moon will get in the way and virtually blot it out.
Even under full or nearly full Moonlight, you can still admire Taurus, the mythical Bull. Look to
the northwest of Orion for Aldebaran and the vee-shaped Hyades (the Hunter's Belt more or less pointing up and
to the right toward the star). Farther to the northwest, look for
one of the most charming of stellar sights, the Pleiades -- Seven Sisters --