Eyes on the Sky: March 2012

Eyes on the Sky: Feb 27 thru Mar 4

Ecliptic Occultation

The Moon occasionally occults – or covers – stars and/or planets from our point of view, on it’s journey around the Earth.  This week, on the night of the 1st into the morning of the 2nd, observers in northern sections of North America over towards Greenland may be able to spot this event.  If you are not sure if you will be able to see it, download the software Stellarium and input your location and local time.  For some, the Moon may have set by the time the occultation occurs; for those that can see the Moon and star but not the Moon covering it, watch how fast the Moon moves by the star through a telescope, if possible.

Also this week: Mars reaches opposition on the 3rd, and will get smaller as the Earth revolves faster around the Sun.  Nearby to the Red Planet are several brighter Messier galaxies in Leo the Lion, worth checking out in medium or larger telescopes.  Also discussed: Where to spot Venus, Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn this week.

Eyes on the Sky: Mar 5 thru Mar 11

Jupiter and Venus snuggle up

This week, the two brightest planets in the night sky, Jupiter and Venus, get closer each day until they reach conjunction early next week.  Watch this planetary pile-up over the next few days, and later in the week, spot both planets in the same field of view with binoculars.  As an added bonus, the speedy Mercury reaches it’s highest point above the horizon early in the week, making it an easy spot below the two brighter planets at evening twilight.

Also this week: The Moon moves by Mars early in the week, and sidles up to Saturn by Saturday; look for this to occur around midnight towards the south.  See the video for details.

Eyes on the Sky: March 12 thru March 18

Mars crashes the Messier party

The galaxies M95, M96 and M105 in Leo are far enough away from bright, easy-to-find stars that they can be a bit of a challenge to find. But this week, Mars literally passes right through their midst, and at magnitude -1 (brighter than most every star in the sky), it makes it a cinch to find them. Also, Jupiter and Venus are dancing past each other in the western, evening sky, unmistakably bright in some dimmer constellations. Look a bit towards the north though, and spot the constellation Perseus, with it’s treasure trove of open clusters visible in binoculars and small telescopes. And last but not least, Saturn has easily cleared the horizon well before midnight, so not is an ideal time to set your sights on the ringed planet.

Eyes on the Sky: March 19 thru March 25

Venturing through the Virgo galaxy cluster / catching a comet

The Virgo galaxy cluster is a “must-see” area of sky for any amateur astronomer looking to conduct a Messier marathon, which are popular to attempt around this time of year.  “Eyes on the Sky” points towards the “jump off point” to find several of these galaxies.  Swinging northward, Comet Garradd is still slowly making its way through our solar system, cruising past the pointer stars of the Big Dipper this week.  It is an easier target in a small, wide-field telescope, but can be spotted with binoculars in moderately light polluted areas with careful scanning.  Download and print this star chart from Sky and Telescope magazine to help you find the comet this week.

The star charts mentioned in the video:

  2. Chart 11a: Close up of VIRGO galaxies


Eyes on the Sky: March 26 thru April 1

Venus near Nymphs / Spotlighting the “Leaps”

Though the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter is several weeks past, there will still plenty of fantastic views to in the western and southwestern evening sky this week thanks to those planets, the Moon and some nearby stars and open clusters.  And looking towards the north, an oft-overlooked section of the Big Bear gets some attention this week, offering up some interesting insights into stellar evolution, colors and distance as the “Leaps” lead to luminous lights in the sky.


About heavenswithlamps

I am an educator by day and a casual Star gazer by night. I read a lot, surf a lot, cycle at times, like trekking, learning swimming, and philosophize at times. Life = Be Cooool!

Posted on March 26, 2012, in Monthly Vodcast and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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