Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, March 15,
The next Skylights will appear Friday, March 29, 2013.
Having passed its new phase on Monday, March 11, the Moon spends
the early part of our fortnight as a waxing crescent. At least until it hits first quarter on Tuesday the 19th. It then
launches itself into the waxing gibbous as
it heads toward full phase the night of
Tuesday the 26th (more accurately the morning of Wednesday the
27th, with the Moon high in the west), after which it begins to
fade in the waning gibbous. Less than
a day before first quarter, the Moon passes its apogee, where it
is farthest from the Earth.
Many are the fine visitations. The evening of Saturday the 16th
finds the growing crescent down and to the left of the Pleiades cluster, with obvious Jupiter higher
up. Then be sure to look the following evening to see the Moon
splitting the narrow space between Jupiter and the star Aldebaran, which will lie down and
to the left. Even the evening of Monday the 18th will look good,
graced with the Moon now making a long triangle with the planet-
star pair. During our second week, the brightening Moon then
encounters Regulus in Leo, on Saturday the 23rd lying to the
west of the star, the following night to the southeast of it. The
night of Wednesday the 27th then finds the near full Moon to the west of
Virgo's Spica, while the following night the
Moon falls between the star and Saturn.
Jupiter slowly slips to the west, passing a milestone of sorts
toward the end of the fortnight when it starts setting before local
midnight (1 AM Daylight Time). It has its own visitation when
(moving slowly easterly) on Sunday the 24th it passes five degrees
north of Aldebaran in Taurus.
Then around 10 PM or so look for Saturn to rise rather well to the
east of somewhat fainter Spica. Crossing the meridian to the south between 3 and 4 AM,
the planet is well into western skies by dawn's light. Long gone
from morning skies now, Venus finally
passes superior conjunction with the
Sun on Thursday the 28th, when it passes into evening skies,
though it will not be visible for quite some time. Oddly, on the
same day, Uranus has its own invisible conjunction with the Sun as it
goes from an evening object to a morning one.
Pan-STARRS lies low in the west in twilight. It may or may not
The most important visitation of all takes place the morning of
Wednesday the 20th, when at 6:02 AM CDT (7:02 EDT, 5:02 MDT, 4:02
PDT) the Sun crosses the Vernal
Equinox in Pisces, marking
the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. At that time,
the Sun rises due east, sets due west, and days and nights are
close to equal length. The North Pole
also technically sees sunrise, which begins six months of sunlight,
Pole sunset and six months of twilight and darkness.
As spring begins, look in the early evening to the far south to see
the northern stars of great Ship Argo sailing off to the west. The constellation is so large that it's
divided into Puppis (the Stern,
south and east of Canis Major), Carina the Hull, and Vela the Sails (southeast of Puppis).
Carina holds the second brightest star in the sky, Canopus, which those in the far
south can see almost directly below Sirius.