Photo of the Week. Planet Earth: the seventh of
twelve in the "Flight across Greenland," going from east to west
above the fantastic glacier and a river of ice. See full resolution.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, March 14, 2014.
A bright Moon dominates the week's sky. We start with the Moon in its fat waxing gibbous phase as it heads toward full on Sunday, March 16, when it rises a bit
past the phase and already into the waning gibbous; third quarter is not reached until Sunday the 23rd. As it
fades, the gibbous Moon takes on both Mars and Saturn.
The night of Monday the 17th (the morning of Tuesday the 18th)
finds our companion to the west of Mars and Spica, while the morning of Wednesday
the 19th the Moon will be to the east of the pair. On the morning
of Thursday the 20th, then look to see the Moon between Mars and
Saturn, though closer to and to the west of the latter. The
morning of Friday the 21st, the Moon will then be just to the east
of the ringed planet, between it and the head of Scorpius, with Antares farther to the
Back in the evening, Jupiter transits the meridian
high to the south just as twilight darkens the sky and the stars
begin to come out. It then descends to the northwest in Gemini until it finally sets about
3:30 AM Daylight Time, about an hour and a half before Venus rises to reign over the morning skies until dawn
mostly takes it away (the planet bright enough to be visible in a
clear blue daytime sky). In between are Mars and Saturn The red
planet rises to the north (and a bit east) of Spica in Virgo around 9:30 PM, the two
providing a fine color contrast, Mars the brighter, the difference
more obvious as Mars approaches its opposition to the Sun on April
8. Saturn follows about two hours later, rising in Libra where it will stay for some
time. Mars transits the meridian at 3 AM, Saturn performing the
act as Venus rises.
The biggest news is of Earth. At 11:57 AM CDT (12:57 PM EDT, 9:57 AM PDT) on
Thursday, March 20, the Sun crosses the Vernal Equinox and celestial
equator on its way north through Pisces, and spring begins in the northern hemisphere.
On that day, the day and night are of equal length, each 12 hours
long, the Sun rises due east and sets due west while rising at the
north pole and setting at the south pole (at least approximately,
technical details like atmospheric refraction skewing things a
bit, but no matter, it's a great date as we leave northern winter
With Orion, Canis Major, and the rest of the winter gang slowly
heading off to the west, and with the Sun crossing the vernal
equinox, the autumnal equinox
crosses the meridian at midnight (1 AM Daylight Time). Look to
the south of for the distorted square that makes Corvus the Crow; and if you are
far enough south, close to the Tropic of Cancer, you can find Crux, the Southern Cross. To those
in the north, the Big Dipper
passes nearly overhead.