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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday March 27 to Thursday April 3

The "Blue" New Moon is Monday March 31. Jupiter is the brightest object in the evening sky, visible all evening. Mars is prominent in the late evening sky. Saturn rises higher in the evening sky. Venus is prominent in the morning sky. The Moon is near Venus on the 27th and 28th. Mercury is dimming in the morning sky and is near the crescent Moon on the 29th. The asteroids Vesta and Pallas are visible in binoculars.

The New Moon is Monday March 31. This is a "Blue" New Moon, the second New Moon of the month (the other was on the 1st). The Moon is at Perigee, closest to the Earth, on the 28th.


Evening sky on Saturday March 29 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 some time.

Jupiter is highest around 19:30 pm local daylight saving time. It is high enough to begin observing telescopically when twilight ends.Jupiter sets around midnight, so there is only a few hours for good telescopic observation now.

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, in the late evening the sight of bright Jupiter sinking to the west, and bright Mars (still not as bright as Jupiter though) rising in the east is quite beautiful.

Jupiter's Moons are readily visible in binoculars.

Mars rises around 20:00 pm local daylight saving time, and is now easily seen in the late evening, rising as Jupiter is setting. 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).

Morning sky on  Saturday March 29 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 am ACDST in South Australia.  Venus is well above the horizon. Mercury is still reasonably high above the horizon, with the crescent Moon nearby. The inset shows the telescopic view of Venus 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 was at its furthest distance from the Sun on the 23rd, and now will begin to slowly sink towards the horizon. Venus  is now a clear half-Moon shape. The crescent Moon is near Venus on the 27th and 28th. 

Mercury  is continues to sink towards the horizon. Although dimming it is still readily visible below Venus. It is near the crescent Moon on the 29th.

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. Saturn forms a triangle with the two brightest stars of Libra, its apex pointing towards the head of the Scorpion. Saturn is  high enough in the early morning for decent telescopic observation.


Evening sky on  Saturday March 29 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 23:00 pm ACDST in South Australia. Mars is close to the bright star Spica. Saturn forms a triangle with the two brightest stars of Libra. 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. By the end of the week Vesta will become bright enough to be just visible to the unaided eye in 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.

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.

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