Saturday, March 31, 2012

Venus meets the Pleiades

Venus approaches the Pleiades. Use binoculars for a better view. Over the next few nights, the planet moves directly underneath the "dipper" of the cluster.

Such is our view from Earth...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Venus begins its slide under the Pleiades

Venus moves past the Pleiades star cluster during the coming week. Look each night at unmistakeable Venus approaching the dim, mysterious grouping of stars known as the Seven Sisters, or the Pleiades. Binoculars help reveal the planet inching towards, then in front of the distant cluster. Look to the west at 9 p.m. for this celestial sight.

Such is our view from Earth...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

14th constellation of the zodiac

Unbeknownst to most people, there are more than twelve constellations of the zodiac. Ophiuchus, the thirteenth, rises in the early evening in our late spring skies with the sun moving through it in December. The fourteenth is a product of how the constellation boundaries are drawn. By convention, on March 27 from about 4:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. the sun partially enters the constellation Cetus, the Whale. Only about 10% of the sun's disk nicks the Pisces/Cetus boundary before it fully returns to the realm of Pisces.

Such is our view from Earth...

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Crescent Moon, Venus, Jupiter and the Pleiades

Tonight, the Moon was sitting pretty next to brilliant Venus. Jupiter was below and the Pleiades was above. Tomorrow night the Moon will be between the Pleiades and the Hyades star clusters. Look high in the west at 9 pm for this interesting celestial combination.

After viewing these sights, turn around and inspect Mars shining in Leo. It currently moves just to the left of the star Regulus. It is known as the Red Planet. Is it really red? How bright is it? Is it brighter than Sirius, which shines in the south?

Such is our view from Earth...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Moon greets Jupiter, Venus, and the Pleiades

As the evening twilight deepens on Sunday and Monday, the crescent moon finds itself next to bright Jupiter on the first night, then next to brilliant Venus. Above Venus, about the same distance that it lies above Jupiter, is the pretty Pleiades star cluster. Use binoculars to enjoy the cluster's full majesty. Tuesday night the moon, now fatter and brighter, meets the Pleiades overwhelming it with moon glow.

Such is our view from Earth...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Positions in the sky of Venus, Jupiter — and Mars

Venus and Jupiter remain close after their encounter two nights ago. Over the next few weeks, Venus rises higher and Jupiter drops closer to the horizon. Both planets stay in the constellation Aries the Ram in the second half of March.

After gazing at these two planets, turn around and face east. Mars climbs in the sky with the constellation Leo the Lion. It currently sits half way between Leo's bright star Regulus and the moderately bright star Denebola at the tip of the lion's tail. Make a note of where Mars lies with respect to Leo's stars. Mars moves slowly to the west until mid April when it makes a 180 and starts heading eastward.

This certainly emphasizes the expression, "March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb."

Such is our view from Earth...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Heavenly headlamps grace our western sky

Two eye-catching objects shine next to one another over the next few nights. Venus, the brighter of the two, ascends as Jupiter descends. Look to the west after 8:00 p.m. to spot this planetary pair. By the end of the week, their separation noticeably increases.

Such is our view from Earth...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Venus and Jupiter dazzle in our western sky

It is hard to miss brilliant Venus and bright Jupiter appearing as heavenly headlamps in the western sky just as darkness settles. How dramatic is the planetary pair? Their combined light casts a shadow onto a wall in a dark location. Try this around 7:30 p.m. EST (8:30 EDT) when they are still relatively far above the horizon.

Look over the next few nights as Venus rises higher and passes Jupiter. On Tuesday night, they are at their closest, after which Venus pulls away moving slightly higher each evening for a few weeks. Jupiter, on the other hand, drops closer to the horizon each evening.

Such is our view from Earth...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Aurora in our skies?

The likelihood of aurora gracing our skies remains higher than normal, although certainly not guaranteed, through Saturday night. Bright moonlight definitely interferes with enjoying the red, green, and white glowing curtains dancing above the northern horizon. The best time to look on Friday night is between 7:30 and 8:15 p.m., and on Saturday night is between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Be sure to face north and observe from a dark location away from city lights.

Such is our view from Earth...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Celestial Treasures of March

March brings a lot of planetary action in the evening sky.

March 3, Mars reaches opposition, lying 63 million miles from Earth. The Red Planet is at its closest the following night before the Earth begins pulling away from in their orbits. This is the best time this year to view our planetary neighbor.
March 12, 13, and 14: Brilliant Venus moves past bright Jupiter in the western evening sky. This will be an eye-catching sight.
March 20: Vernal Equinox. Spring arrives in the northern hemisphere, autumn in the southern.
March 25: The thin crescent moon moves next to bright Jupiter in the western evening sky. View this and the event on the following evening through binoculars.
March 26: The thin crescent moon sits next to Venus, making an remarkable scene.

As darkness falls, the constellation Orion stands high in the south. To its lower left shines the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius.

Such is our view from Earth...