Photo of the Week. A bright sundog caused by
sunlight refracting through high ice-crystal clouds shines 22
degrees to the right of the setting Sun.
Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, March 25,
The next skylights will appear April 8.
As we start our fortnight the Moon is in the waning gibbous phase as it approaches third quarter, which is passed the morning
of Thursday, March 31. It then slims as a waning crescent until dawn
challenges it the morning of Wednesday, April 6, when it will lie
to the east of Venus (the Moon to the
west of the planet the previous morning). The Moon actually
occults the planet on the 6th, though not as seen from North
After passing new on Thursday the 7th, the narrow waxing crescent switches to the other
side of the sky, becoming visible the evening of Friday the 8th,
when it will lie up and to the left of Mercury
. The night of Saturday the 27th the Moon will fall northwest
and then the night of Monday the 28th will appear more or less
between the red planet and Saturn.
Steadily getting slightly closer to us over most of our period,
the Moon passes perigee, where
it is nearest to Earth, on Thursday the 7th.
Well up in the east as darkness descends, Jupiter
the brightest body in the evening sky, crosses the meridian to the south shortly before midnight
Daylight Time at about the time when Mars rises. Then about an
hour later up comes Saturn, the latter two planets making a nice
triangle with Antares in Scorpius, Mars (at the northwest
apex) the brightest, the star (at the southern point) the
faintest, though at first magnitude eminently visible. The bright
reference points make Mars's easterly motion against the
background easy to see.
As the sky darkens look for the stars of Argo, the Ship, skimming along the southern horizon to
the south and east of Sirius, the
brightest star in the sky. The ship of the argonauts is so big
that in the eighteenth century it was divided into three parts, Vela (the Sails), Puppis (the Stern), and, farther
down, Carina, the Keel. North of
and slightly east of Sirius find bright Procyon of Canis Minor, the smaller dog, traditionally made of
just two stars, Procyon and fainter Gomeisa just to the northeast of
it, the fainter star usually referred to as Beta Canis Minoris.