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Tuesday, March 17, 2015


The Sky This Week - Thursday March 19 to Thursday March 26

The New Moon is Friday March 20. Venus is prominent in the twilight evening sky and is visited by the Moon on the 22nd and 23rd. Mars is lost in the twilight. Jupiter is the brightest object in the late evening sky. Saturn is in the head of the Scorpion. Mercury is getting lower in the morning sky and is visited by the Moon on the 19th. Unaided-eye nova in morning sky. Globe at Night light pollution survey concludes.

The New Moon is Friday March 20. The Moon is at perigee, when it is closest to the Earth on the 20th. Earth is at equinox on the 21st, when day and night are roughly equal in length.

Evening sky on Monday March 23 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 20:00 (8:00 pm) ACDST in South Australia.  Mars is low in the twilight, with Venus above it and the crescent Moon above Venus. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Venus is easy to see low above the western horizon in the twilight. At civil twilight, half an hour after sunset, it is around one and a half hand-spans above the horizon. On the 22nd the thin crescent Moon is below Venus, and then on the 23rd it is above Venus.

Mars  is low in the western twilight sky and is effectively lost to view.

Evening sky on Saturday March 21 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACDST showing Jupiter.  The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at 01:00 on the 24th. Jupiter is the brightest object above the north-eastern to northern horizon. (click to embiggen).

 Jupiter  is now easily seen  in the evening sky. It is the brightest object above the north-eastern horizon when twilight ends, and continues into the northern sky as the night goes on. It is between the bright star Regulus in the sickle of Leo (this forms the head of the constellation of the  Lion) and Pollux in Cancer. It is also not far from the rather nice Beehive cluster in Cancer, and looks very good in binoculars.

Jupiter was  at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest in our sky, on 7 February, but it will be an excellent object for may weeks to come.  Jupiter is visible all night and is high enough for decent telescopic observation from around 10 pm. Jupiter's Moons will be putting on a good display in both binoculars and small telescopes.

On the 24th from around midnight, Callisto comes out of eclipse, Io traverses Jupiter's disk as does Ganymede's shadow.

Morning sky on Thursday March 19 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 6:30 am ACDST .  Mercury is reasonably high above the horizon and close to the crescent Moon. (click to embiggen).

Saturn climbs still higher in the morning sky. It is now easily visible well before twilight near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion not far from the bright red star Antares. The sight of the distinctive constellation of the Scorpion curled above the horizon, with bright Saturn in its head, is very nice indeed.

Saturn is now rising  before midnight, but is still best after midnight.

Mercury is lowering in the morning twilight and and this week is the last where it is  reasonably easy to see at around a hand-span above the horizon an hour before sunrise. On the 19th it is visited by the crescent Moon.

A new bright nova has been detected in Sagittarius. Visible only in the early morning, it is just on the threshold of unaided eye visibility, and may get brighter, but is easy to see in  binoculars. Detailed instructions and charts for viewing are here.

The Globe at Night light pollution survey for March will finish on the 20th. 
There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Jupiter just past opposition. 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 AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.


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