Tuesday, March 18, 2014
The Sky This Week - Thursday March 20 to Thursday March 27
The Last Quarter Moon is Monday March 24. Earth is at Autumnal equinox on the 21st.
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 15:00 pm local daylight saving time, and is highest around 20:00 pm local daylight saving time. It is high enough to begin observing telescopically when twilight ends.
In the early evening it is above the north-eastern 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 Sunday all of Jupiter's Galilean Moons are lined up on one side of Jupiter's disk.
Mars rises around 20:30 pm local daylight saving time, but is still best seen when high in the early 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 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 at its furthest distance from the Sun on the 23rd. Venus is now almost a half-Moon shape. The crescent Moon is near Venus on the 27th.
Mercury is begining to sink towards the horizon but is still readily visible below Venus.
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 and 21st.
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 difficult in the first half of 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, and Mars and Saturn coming into view. 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.
Labels: weekly sky