March Moon at 2nd Perigee

   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest to Earth), for the second time this orbit, on Tuesday March 30th. For this perigee the 18-day old waning gibbous Moon will be at a distance of 28.24 Earth diameters, 223,880 miles (360,300 km) from the Earth.

   On the date of the perigee Moon the 18-day old waning gibbous Moon will rise around 10 pm local time. The Moon is within the boundaries of Libra the Scales and on either side of the Moon are two stars with interesting sounding names. They are the stars Zubeneschamali and Zubenelgenubi. Despite these two stars belonging to the constellation Libra the Scales the translation of the star names mean “Northern Claw” (Zubeneschamali), and “Southern Claw” (Zubenelgenubi) of Scorpius the Scorpion.


   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*
   *Click here to read my Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

Earth Hour 2021

   Saturday March 27th is the annual Earth Hour celebration. Started in 2007 the Earth Hour celebration is a world-wide citizen-powered effort to call attention to our planet’s environment and the need to better take care of our home (our only home).
   Earth Hour, although one hour, is an ongoing effort to encourage taking action about climate change as well as the destruction of nature and decreases in biodiversity.
   So on Saturday evening March 27th, at 8:30 pm (your local time), turn the electrically powered lights off in your house for one hour. But don’t stop there. Act locally and think globally! Get involved – stay involved.

   With lights out this may be a good time to step outside, weather permitting, and take a look at what could possibly be darker night skies with lights off in your neighborhood. Mars is visible high above the southern horizon near the stars of Taurus the Bull, however this year the light from the full Moon will brighten the skies.

            Watch this short video story “There Once Was A Sky Full of Stars”.

   From the Earth Hour web site:

Our first-ever Earth Hour “Virtual Spotlight”
Over the years, the lights-off moment saw entire streets, buildings, landmarks, and city skylines go dark – an unmissable sight that drew public attention to nature loss and the climate crisis.
This year – amidst the current global circumstances – in addition to switching off your lights, we also invite you to raise awareness and create the same unmissable sight online, so that the world sees our planet, the issues we face, and our place within it, in a new light.

   That’s us, and we have a home that is danger from not only climate change, the destruction of nature, and decreases in biodiversity, but our only home is also losing to the demands of an increasing population and its effect on the local environment. At the 8 Billion Angels web site there is information about the effect a growing population is having on our planet. Be sure to watch the video trailer and perhaps consider organizing a community viewing.
click on graphic to go to the Earth Overshoot web site   Continue learning about our impact on the Earth by visiting the 8 Billion Angels companion web site Earth Overshoot.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

March Equinox – 2021

   Saturday March 20th is an equinox day. While typically called the Vernal or Spring Equinox it is more globally appropriate to call this day the March Equinox as it is the start of Fall in the Southern Hemisphere. The official time for the equinox is 09:40 UT on the 20th which for my time zone is 5:40 am CDT. So for those in the northern hemisphere winter is ending and spring has ‘sprung’ (starts). From a geographical perspective we would describe the Sun as being over the Earth’s equator, and as this graphic shows there would be an equal amount of daylight and night on our planet as a result.
    At mid-day on the equator the sun is directly overhead and from that latitude you have no elongated shadow, just a ‘blob-like’ shadow at your feet as this picture of my feet taken at mid-day in Quito Ecuador shows.


   
    Regardless of your hemispheric preference get outside and cast a shadow!

   
   
  Northern hemisphere spring, Astronomically speaking, is when the Sun reaches the celestial coordinates of 0 hours and 0 degrees as it moves northward along the ecliptic crossing the celestial equator. At this location the Sun is just within the constellation of Pisces the Fishes and not entering Aries the Ram as the pseudoscience of astrology would have you believe.

    To learn more about the celestial coordinates click here to read a previous post about seasons and the equinox.

   Click here to see the online world sunlight map used to make the day/night graphic at the top of the page.


   Celebrate Solar Week March 22nd-26th. Click here to go to the Solar Week web site.

   
   
   
   During a trip to Quito Ecuador to visit one of the exchange student we had hosted, and her family, we spent the day at a Museum on the equator, Mitad del Mundo. I brought along my over-sized protractor knowing in advance that we would be at the museum. So at mid-day I had my wife stand on the equator (yellow line) and hold a string to the top of her head while Cathy, a sister of our exchange student, held the protractor. This was done during the summer so the Sun was over the northern horizon at mid-day and the Sun’s angle above the northern horizon was around 75o.

   Here is a short series of hourly pictures taken during the day on the September equinox on the equator in Quito Ecuador at Collegio Menor San Francisco de Quito, a private school that I visited and did the SunShIP project with (Sun Shadow Investigation Project).

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Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Waxing Crescent Moon – Mars Conjunction

   Friday evening March 19th look for the 6.7-day old waxing crescent Moon to be about 3o from the ‘Red Planet’ Mars, and about 5-6o from the reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. All three should just barely fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

A 3-for-1 Moon Event!

               Apogee – Descending Node – Conjunction with the Pleiades
   
Apogee Moon
   Our Moon reaches apogee, (furthest from Earth), for this orbit, on Thursday March 18th. For this apogee the 6.6-day old waxing crescent Moon will be at a distance of 31.77 Earth diameters, 251,841 miles (405,300 km) from the Earth.

Descending Node
   The 6.6-day old waxing crescent Moon crosses the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic.

Conjunction with the Pleiades
   The apogee Moon, at nearly first quarter phase, will be above the western horizon and will be within a few degrees from the open star cluster the Pleiades. This should make for a good view with binoculars.


   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*
   *Click here to read my Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)
   
   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Sun Enters Astronomical Constellation Pisces the Fishes

11 March 2014   Thursday March 11th the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer and into the constellation of Pisces the Fishes. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.
Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Neptune at 2021 Solar conjunction

   Wednesday March 10th the outer ringed planet Neptune will reach a point in its respective orbit where Neptune will be on the opposite side of the Sun as viewed from here on Earth. Neptune, or any of the other outer planets (Mars to Neptune), dwarf planets, or small solar system bodies beyond the Earth’s orbit, will all eventually reach this position on the opposite side of the Sun known as solar conjunction.
   For the two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, when they are at a similar position on the opposite side of the Sun, they are at superior conjunction.
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Waning Crescent Moon – Saturn/Jupiter/Mercury Conjunctions

Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, March 9th and 10th, the thin waning crescent Moon wil be passing by the planets Saturn. Jupiter, and the inner planet Mercury. On the 9th the 26-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 3-4o from Saturn and on the 10th the 28-day old Moon will be about 4-5o and about 6-7o from Mercury.


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Mercury at Western Elongation

   On Saturday March 6th Mercury, the innermost planet, will reach its orbital position known as greatest western elongation at 27.3o. At that moment Mercury, the Sun, and the Earth, would be arranged in something close to approximating a right angle as this graphic shows. Even though it sounds confusing, at western elongation for either Mercury or Venus the inner planet will be to the right of the Sun as we view them, meaning that at western elongation an inner planet rises in the east before the Sun rises. And at eastern elongation with the inner planet on the left side of the Sun the inner planet follows the Sun across the sky setting after the Sun sets.

   From our perspective the orbits of Mercury and Venus appear to move from one side of the Sun to the other – out to the left (east) from the Sun to eastern elongation, then reverse and move westward (inferior conjunction) between the Earth and the Sun to western elongation. From there the inner planet moves eastward going behind the Sun (superior conjunction) and eventually reappearing on the eastern side of the Sun for an eastern elongation. Repeat over and over – do not stop!

   Mercury is currently visible in the morning skies before the Sun rises. This inner planet is steadily moving past Jupiter after having passed by Saturn last week.

   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Moon Dodges the Scorpion at Descending Node

   Friday March 5th the 22-day old last quarter Moon crosses the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic.

   On the date of the descending node the 22-day old last quarter Moon will be over the southern horizon at sunrise local time, and about 3-4o from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.

   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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