Title: March Skywatch Highlights
Location: Hawaiian Islands
Date / Time: March 2011
Comments: Between the recent storms & cloud cover here in Hawaii, our Winter sky has been truly AMAZING! Orion & his 2 hunting dogs (Canis Major & Canis Minor), Taurus, Leo, Gemini, Auriga, & many other great Winter constellations appear boldly overhead. Notice the sparkling bright stars of the ?Winter Hexagon? (Sirius, Procyon, Pollux, Capella, Aldebaron, & Rigel), & numerous other FINE celestial objects available for our viewing pleasure! During the first week of March, JUPITER, dominates our western evening sky. Blazing at magnitude minus -2.1, you'll easily find the gas giant, low in the west just after sunset. Each night in early March, Jupiter will appear lower on the horizon, and will set earlier. By March 10th, you may be able to spot MERCURY, almost directly below Jupiter. The tiny innermost planet gleams at minus -1.2 magnitude (brighter than usual!). From March 10th ? 15th, Mercury appears a little higher each night at dusk, while Jupiter appears a little lower. By March 16th, the two planets appear side-by-side, only 2 degrees apart, low in the west at 7:15PM. (Jupiter, brighter on the left). By March 25th, Jupiter will be lost in the light of the setting Sun, to reappear in late April in the morning sky. Mercury will continue to rise higher in the western sky thru the third week of March. On March 22nd Mercury will reach "eastern elongation," its greatest apparent distance east of the Sun (19 degrees). With Jupiter all but gone, Mercury will then be the most conspicuous object in the western sky. Mercury fades quickly during the final week of March, dropping to 2nd magnitude by the 31st. SATURN rises almost due east at 9PM in early March, & rises at sunset by the end of the month. The ringed planet grows more conspicuous as it climbs higher in the eastern sky. Saturn lies in the constellation Virgo, (the Maiden), & appears 10 degrees directly above Spica, Virgo's brightest star. Saturn shines at magnitude 0.4 which makes it slightly brighter than blue-white Spica, and a bit fainter than yellow-orange Arcturus (Hokule'a), which appears 30 degrees to the planet's left. Saturn's increasing altitude offers excellent opportunities for telescopic viewing of the spectacular ring system. The rings now tilt at 9 degrees to our line of sight from Earth, & present a fine view of their northern face. Dazzling VENUS is that blazing light you see in the early morning sky, rising from the east at around 4:30AM throughout March. (It rises 2 hours before the Sun in early March, but only about 75 minutes before sunrise at month's end). At magnitude minus -4.0, there's no mistaking Venus for any other celestial object. MARS does not make an appearance this month, as it lies on the far side of the Sun from Earth & is lost in the Sun's glare. Mars will return to view before dawn in late April. The Southern Cross (Crux) rises in the southeast around midnight in early March, & by 10PM at the end of the month. To view Crux, you'll need an unobstructed view to the southern horizon. Acrux, the bottom star of the Cross, rises only about six degrees above the horizon at it highest point. The Cross stands upright, & is due south, at 2:15AM in early March, & at 12:15AM at month's end. Look for 2 bright stars low in the south, Alpha & Beta Centauri, which point to the Roman-style "cross" asterism to their right (west). . The Vernal or Spring Equinox occurs on March 20th here in Hawaii. This is the moment when the Sun crosses the celestial equator, marking the change in seasons from winter to spring. On the day of the equinox, the Sun rises exactly in the East, & sets exactly in the West, and periods of day & night are the same length. After the equinox, the Sun will appear higher & higher in the sky, & the days will grow longer. For a March Hawaiian sky map, visit Bishop Museum Planetarium www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium (bishopmuseum.org).

Maintained by Roz Reiner - Kauai, Hawaii


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