What’s Up in the Night Sky? March 2018

Written by  Wednesday, 07 March 2018 11:54
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It’s going to be an exciting month for planets and we have 2 full moons again, just like January. They occur on March 1st and 31st. Since the months of the year don’t quite match the lunar cycles, 2 full moons in one month can be the result, and the second full moon is called a Blue Moon. It is rare and happens every two to three years. To have a year in which two months have two full moons is exceptionally rare! It can happen only three to five times in a century. The next time it will happen is 2037.

March is a dull month for meteor watchers. There are no major shows in the sky! A consolation prize is offered with the opportunity to see the zodiacal light especially in moon free early evenings from March 3rd to the 18th. Dust particles concentrated along the ecliptic, the plane of the planets, and give rise to the pyramid shape glow of the light. Look below the Pleiades star cluster which is to the right of the constellation Orion in the southwest. Try to find a nice dark sight to view this phenomenon. Another sight worth catching is Venus and Mercury close by each other in the west, especially on March 15th about half an hour after sunset. Jupiter is in the southeast at about midnight. By morning, Mars and Jupiter are in the south and Saturn can be found in the southeast.

Don’t forget that on March 11th is the only date we can use for arriving at work late because you forgot to change the clocks in your house. Remember – spring ahead, fall back!

Here’s a challenge for those of you who have telescopes. Haul them out and have a go at finding Uranus at evening twilight on the 28th. Venus will be 0.07 degrees north of Venus.

March 7th: The moon passes a 4 degrees north of Jupiter about 2 am EST.

March 9th: Last Quarter Moon. The moon passes 4 degrees north of Mars at 8 pm EST.

March 10th: The moon passes a close 2 degrees north of Saturn around 9 pm EST.

March 11th: The moon is at apogee – 402,300 Km. We switch to Daylight Savings time today. After today, the way we specify time shifts from EST (Eastern Savings Time) to EDT (Eastern Daylight Time).

March 17th: New Moon. Mercury is 4 degrees north of Venus at 9 pm EDT.

March 18th: The moon is 8 degrees south of Mercury at 2 pm EDT and is 4 degrees south of Venus at 3 pm EDT.

March 20th: The Vernal Equinox occurs at 12:15 EDT – First day of Spring. May the weather treat us well and let the maple sap flow.

March 24th: First Quarter Moon.

March 26th: The moon is at perigee – 366,960 Km.

March 28th: Venus passes 0.07 degrees north of Uranus.

March 31st: Full Moon – second of the month. The Full Moon on the 1st is called the Full Worm Moon. It is named after the worms that crawl out as the weather warms this month. The second Full Moon on is called a Blue Moon. I’m going to call it “The Second Chance to Find Worms Full Moon” because it usually isn’t all that hot here at the end of March. We can always hope.

Keep looking up!

“The Beginners Observing Guide” by Leo Enright is an invaluable companion to find adventure in the sky. It contains star charts and is packed with information. It can be purchased at the Sharbot Lake pharmacy or can be ordered from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada at www.rasc.ca/publications. A subscription to our very own excellent Canadian astronomy magazine, SkyNews, can be ordered at the RASC website as well. Email me at fred.barrett2@sympatico,ca to ask questions or report any unusual sights in the sky.

Clear skies, Fred

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