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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday March 13 to Thursday March 20

The Full Moon is Monday March 17. Jupiter is the brightest object in the evening sky, visible all evening. Mars becomes more prominent in the evening sky. The Moon is near Mars on the 18th. Saturn rises higher in the evening sky. The Moon is near Saturn on the 20th. Venus is bright in the morning sky. Mercury reaches its highest point in the morning sky.  The asteroids Vesta and Pallas are visible in binoculars.

The Full Moon is Monday March 17.

Evening sky on Thursday March 20 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 21:00 pm ACDST in South Australia. Jupiter is above the north-western horizon. The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Jupiter is in the constellation Gemini and is the brightest object in the evening sky. Jupiter was at opposition on the 6th of January, when it was brightest and closest to Earth, but will remain bright and easily observable in telescopes for several months.

Jupiter rises around 15:30 pm local daylight saving time, and is highest just before 20:30 pm local daylight saving time. It is high enough to begin observing telescopically in the early evening.

In the early evening it is above the northern horizon between the bright stars Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini, and the bright red star Betelgeuse. Jupiter is quite easy to see as the brightest object in the entire sky.   Jupiter's Moons are readily visible in binoculars. On Thursday around 22:00 Ganymede goes into eclipse and between 20:00 and 22:00 Io and Io's shadow transits Jupiter's disk.

Mars rises around 21:00 pm, but is still best seen when high in the morning sky. Mars is rapidly brightening ahead of opposition next month, and is readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the late evening horizon. Mars is is in the constellation of Virgo near the bright star Spica (see below). The Moon is near Mars on the 18th.

Morning sky on Sunday March 16 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 am ACDST in South Australia.  Venus is well above the horizon. Mercury is relatively high above the horizon. The inset show the telescopic view at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

The morning sky is quite impressive at the moment, with Mars, Saturn,  Venus and Mercury strung out across the sky.

Venus is in the morning sky, above the eastern horizon.  The brightest object in the morning sky, it is now easy to see and although it is past maximum brightness, it will dominate the morning sky for some months to come.  Venus rises progressively higher during the week, and is now almost a half-Moon shape.

Mercury  is climbing higher in the dawn sky, and is now readily visible below Venus. It will reach its maximum elongation from the Sun on Friday 14th. Although after this it begins to return to the horizon this is still a great time to view this fleet world.

Saturn is rising higher in the evening sky, but is still best visible high above the northern horizon before dawn. Saturn is in Libra near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion.  It is  high enough in the early morning for decent telescopic observation. The Moon is near Saturn on the 20th.


Evening sky on Saturday March 18 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 23:00 pm ACDST in South Australia. The Moon forms a triangle with Mars and Spica. The asteroid Vesta is just below Mars, and easily visible in binoculars.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Two bright asteroids are now visible in binoculars in the evening sky. 2 Pallas and 4 Vesta. Later in March Vesta will become bright enough to be just visible to the unaided eye win dark sky locations.While Vesta is easily seen in binoculars, you will need to watch the same patch of sky in binoculars for a couple of nights to identify it by its movement. See here for more details on seeing Vesta and here for more details on seeing Pallas. Moonlight will make seeing these asteroid more difficult later in the week.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Jupiter and Venus so prominent in the sky.  If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEDST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

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