Skylights: March 4 through March 10

Mar 3

Written by:
3/3/2013 8:06 PM  RssIcon

The week of March 4 through March 10 2013 sees a number of interesting phenomena in the night sky:

  • March 4: The Moon reaches Last Quarter phase.  Many people never see the Moon at this phase, as it doesn't not rise until several hours after midnight.  But this is also the Moon you're likely to see in the morning sky, during daylight hours.  Craters and mountain ranges appear different than they do when the sun is lit from the "waxing" direction, so it is worth getting up early on occasion to try and see what the Moon can offer visually at this time.
  • March 7: The asteroid Ceres passes less than a half a degree from the bright star Alnath, which is on the border of Taurus and Auriga.  The high-overhead location of this event means that the 7.5 magnitude minor planet should be seen with 50mm binoculars or most any small telescope from all but the worst light polluted locations.  
  • March 10: The comet spoken of as PANSTARRS but that has the designation C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS reaches perihelion on this day, which should be its brightest magnitude.  However, the very low location of the comet from a visual, Earth-based perspective means that seeing and observing this comet may prove difficult for many casual observers, and may even require some effort from experienced observers.  See the caveats about this comet here.  However, a daily graphic will be posted in this blog, showing the location of the comet at precisely 30 minutes after local sunset (as seen from 40 degrees north latitude).  Check back here daily for more information.
  • All week: Messier 44 is a fantastic, large open cluster.  Sadly, it is located in a star-poor region of sky, but fortunately, due to its size and brightness, it can be found with simple binoculars from most areas.  Located about halfway between Regulus in Leo the Lion and the central "heart" area of Gemini the Twins, this collection of stars is definitely worth seeking out, and is ideally placed at the meridian around 9:00pm all week long.  

Skylights graphic for March 4 thru March 10, 2013

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The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.