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Tuesday, March 23, 2010


The Sky This Week - Thursday March 25 to Thursday April 1

The Full Moon is Tuesday March 30. This is a "Blue" Moon, the second of the year (a rare event). Mars has faded but is still easily visible. Saturn is seen in the evening above the eastern horizon near the bight stars Regulus and Spica. Venus appears low in the twilight. Jupiter is visible in the morning sky.

Evening sky looking North showing Saturn, Mars and the Moon at 10:00 pm local daylight saving time (9:00 pm non-daylight saving) on Thursday March 25. Click to embiggen.

The Full Moon is Tuesday March 30. This is a "Blue" Moon, in modern terms the second full Moon in a month. We also had a "Blue" Moon in January. "Blue" Moons roughly occur once 2.5years, but to have two in the same year is rarer, roughly once every 20 years.

Saturn is rising around 7:30 pm local daylight saving time and is easily visible in the late evening sky as the bright yellow object between the bright stars Regulus and Spica. Saturn was at opposition, when it was at its biggest and brightest, on Monday March 22. However, now is still a very good time for telescopic observation of the ringed world. The Moon is near Saturn on Monday, March 29. On the 30th-31st, Saturns' Moon Titan cruises just under the planets south pole.

However, it is best to wait until 11 pm or midnight, when Saturn is quite high in the sky for the best telescopic views. Saturn's' rings are opening, and look quite beautiful, even in a small telescope. 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.

Mercury is lost in the twilight.

Bright white Venus continues to rise above from the twilight glow. People with flat, level horizons and good eyesight can see Venus above the western horizon half an hour after Sunset.

Jupiter is now relatively easy to see in the morning sky, above the eastern horizon. During the week, Jupiter comes close to the dim star Phi Aquarii, and on April 1 it will look as if it has swallowed the star.

Eastern horizon showing Jupiter at 6:30 am local daylight saving time (5:30 am non-daylight saving) on Wednesday March 31, click to embiggen.

In the evening Mars can be seen low in the northern sky as the brightest (and clearly red) object in that part of the sky. Now is still a good time to look at our sister world in a telescope. Shortly before 9:30 pm local daylight saving time (8:30 pm non-daylight saving time) Mars is at is highest in the sky, this is the best time to look at Mars in a telescope. Mars is a distinct nearly full disk in a small telescope, although somewhat small. Larger telescopes will be needed to distinguish surface features. Red Mars is in the constellation of Cancer, nearly halfway between Pollux and the Beehive Cluster. Mars also forms a line with the bright stars Sirius and Procyon. Mars forms another line with Regulus, Saturn and Spica. On Thursday March 25 the waxing Moon is close to Mars.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm ADST, Western sky at 10 pm ADST. 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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