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Tuesday, March 04, 2014


The Sky This Week - Thursday March 6 to Thursday March 13

The First Quarter Moon is Saturday March 8. Jupiter is the brightest object in the evening sky, visible all evening. The Moon is near Jupiter on the 10th. Mars becomes more prominent in the evening sky. Saturn appears in the evening sky. Venus is bright in the morning sky. Mercury climbs higher the morning sky. There is a series of bright ISS passes in the evening. The asteroids Vesta and Pallas are visible in binoculars.

The First Quarter Moon is Saturday March 8. The Moon is at Apogee, furthest from the Earth, on Thursday March 13. In the evening starting from March 5 there are a series of bright International Space Station passes. In some states the Thursday and Friday passes are close to the Moon. For more details and links see here.

Evening sky on Monday March 10 looking north  as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 pm ACDST in South Australia. Jupiter is above the northern 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 16:00 pm local daylight saving time, and is highest just before 21:00 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 near between the bright stars Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini, and Betelgeuse. Jupiter is quite easy to see as the brightest object in the entire sky.  On Monday 10th the Moon is close to Jupiter. Jupiter's Moons are readily visible in binoculars. On Sunday evening transits Jupiter around 22:00, on Thursday around 21:30 Ganymede comes out of eclipse and Io's shadow is about to exit Jupiter's disk. 

Mars rises around 22:00 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).

Morning sky on Sunday March 9 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:00 am ACDST in South Australia.  Crescent Venus is well above the horizon. The crescent Moon is close to Mercury low on 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 next week. This is a great time to view this fleet world.

 Saturn is now entering 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. 

Evening sky on Saturday March 8 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 23:00 pm ACDST in South Australia. 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.

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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