Astronomy news for the two-week period starting Friday, March
We begin our fortnight on the first day of
spring, as at 6:44 CDT on Friday, March 20, the
Sun crossed the celestial equator
at the Vernal Equinox in Pisces, when it rose due east and
set due west, giving us (more or less) equal days and nights.
Until it again crosses the equator at the Autumnal Equinox in Virgo on September 22, it will be in the northern
Spring begins with the Moon in its waning
crescent phase, as it heads toward new on Thursday the 26th.
It then moves to the other side of the Sun and sky to be seen as an
evening waxing crescent that culminates
in the first quarter on Thursday, April 2.
Both waxing and waning crescents will present some fine sights.
The morning of Sunday the 22nd, look in twilight for the Moon just
up and to the right of Jupiter (which
now rises around 5 AM Daylight Time), and then the following
morning for the pair to have reversed their positions, the Moon
also invisibly passing north of Neptune. Then
the morning of Tuesday the 24th finds the thinning crescent just
above Mars, the
planet still difficult to see in growing dawn. During the evening
hours the waxing crescent brackets the Pleiades in Taurus.
Look to the west the evening of Sunday the 29th to see the crescent
below the cluster, then the following evening to find it above the
The fine evening display that Venus has put on
for us now comes to an end. As our two-week period begins, the
planet sets just before twilight is over. Rapidly disappearing
from view, Venus then passes inferior conjunction with the Sun on
Friday the 27th, the planet a rather remarkable eight degrees to
the north of the solar disk. It will then slowly become visible in
the morning sky, where it will put on another fine display that
will last most of the rest of the year. Three days after the
Venusian conjunction, Mercury does
just the opposite by passing through superior solar conjunction, to
the far side of the Sun. In the middle of all this, Saturn holds
center stage, the planet, well up in the east in southeastern Leo as the sky darkens, crossing the
meridian to the south around midnight
With the start of Spring, the winter constellations begin to leave us, Orion now well over to the west at
the end of twilight, the vee-shaped head of Taurus the Bull pointing more or less downward toward
its setting. Well to the northwest Auriga the Charioteer rolls along, seeming to chase Perseus into twilight.