Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, March 27,
Skylights' current two-week period is the result of travel and
medical issues. I hope to go back to weekly reports. Thanks for
The next skylights will appear April 10, 2015.
The current fortnight is the opposite of the previous one, at
least with events involving the Moon. This version of Skylights
is again bracketed by the lunar quarters, but reversed. Now we
begin with first quarter, which is passed
on Friday, March 27, while the third
quarter takes place the night of Saturday April 11, just after
our period ends. Then it includes lunar apogee, with
the Moon farthest from Earth, rather than perigee (closest), on
Wednesday, April 1.
And now it's full Moon that
is encountered, the morning of Saturday the 4th. Prior to that,
the Moon waxes in its gibbous phase,
while after it's in the waning gibbous.
Since solar and lunar eclipses more or less come in pairs, this
full Moon suffers a total eclipse. Best visibility falls in the middle of
the Pacific Ocean. Western US and Canada, though, get to see totality, while in eastern North
America, the Moon sets while it is entering full Earth shadow.
Europe is shut out. The Moon enters full Earth shadow at 3:15 AM
Pacific Daylight Time, hits totality at 4:54 AM. Since the Moon
just skims the northern edge of full shadow, central eclipse takes
place just minutes later, at 5:00 AM. Total eclipse ends at 5:06
AM, and the show is over at 6:45 AM (ignoring the penumbral
stages). Add one hour for MDT, two for CDT, three for EDT.
Our two-week period also features a pair of planetary passages.
The night of Sunday the 29th, the Moon will start to slide south
Jupiter, then will appear northwest of Saturn the morning of
Wednesday the 8th, to the northeast of the planet the following
morning. To the west in the evening we see the glory of
Venus, which does not set until more than an hour past the end
of twilight (two by the end of our period), somewhat after Jupiter
crosses the meridian
to the south. The giant planet is then with
us until somewhat before dawn. Still to the west of Leo and
Regulus, Jupiter ceases
retrograde motion on Wednesday the 8th. By the end of our
fortnight Saturn, which has just begun retrograde, is rising an
hour before midnight Daylight Time northwest of Antares in Scorpius. In lesser news, Uranus passes
conjunction with the Sun on Monday the 6th, while Mercury goes through
superior conjunction with the Sun four days later.
Mars sets as twilight ends.