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Urban Observing March 2014 March 10, 2014

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
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Luckily, this month gets off to a slow start, because my computer is having problems, and I’m working on a loaner, without all my usual software. This is also gonna be a bit short…

Events

The moon was new on the first, so the first few days of the month were good ones to head out to a dark site. If you missed it, don’t worry. This month actually has two new moons, so start making plans now for the last two weeks! Maybe a road ip up to the Headlands dark sky park.

The special event for march is, of course the vernal equinox. This year, it occurs at 12:57 EDT on March 20. Usually dubbed the first day of spring, this is the day when the Sun is overhead at solar noon if you are on the equator, and it rises at the north geographic pole. In most of the northern hemisphere, we’ll have 12 hours of daylight, and the light will be at a steeper angle, which means it’s more concentrated. Let’s hope it actually melts some of this snow!

The March full moon falls in the 16th.

Planets

Venus and Mercury half an hour before sunrise on March 17.

Venus and Mercury half an hour before sunrise on March 17.

Morning observers  get their chance at Mercury as the month starts. The second week will be the best, as it reaches greatest western elongation at the 14th

Venus reaches greatest western elongation on the 22, so it’s a great ” morning star” all month. It’s easily visible even in twilight, so take a look while you’re having that morning coffee. Look especially on the 26 – 29 when a crescent Moon passes through the area. Use binoculars on the 29, and you might also catch one last glimpse of Mercury next to the very old Moon.

Although Mars technically rises in the evening now, it’s still best viewed in the morning. In the constellation of Virgo, it’s high in the west at sunrise. The gibbous Moon joins it March 17 – 20. While the Moon overwhelms it naked eye, the extra light might make it a good time to put a green or blue filter on your ‘scope and take a look.

Jupiter in the evening skies in March.

Jupiter in the evening skies in March.

Jupiter is past opposition, but it’s position in the middle of Gemini makes it a real gem in the evening skies (sorry, couldn’t resist.) Look high in the southeast around sunset, it’ll be the first thing to pop out of the twilight.

Saturn goes in to retrograde this month, so continue to look for it in the morning skies, along with Mars and Venus. It is joined by the Moon on March 20 & 21.

Pre-dawn planets in early March

Pre-dawn planets in early March

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