Thursday, March 1, 2018

Look At The Sky: March

The Planets for MARCH 2018:
NOTE that MOST of the observable planets for this month are in morning skies, with Jupiter dominating and highlighting the planets this month!

Mercury - Mercury is unfavorably placed in solar glare through March 2018, but will be visible low in western skies at dusk close to bright VENUS at about 8 p.m. local time before setting by dark - in PISCES

Venus - our brightest planet will be very low in bright western skies at about 8 p.m. local time and only visible for a brief time before setting; a rather poor month to view   - in PISCES.

Mars - Mars will once again be coming into prominence in 2018 and this month early rises about 2:30 a.m. local time.  The Red Planet is already larger in March than it has been for the past two years, nearly 7 arc seconds across, still very small compared to Jupiter and Saturn.  By late month, Mars' apparent telescopic diameter will have grown as will its brightness; by month's end, Mars will pass very close to the south of yellowish SATURN during the last couple of days of March into the first days of April - in SAGITTARIUS

Jupiter - Now rising in the EAST about midnight local time, mighty and bright Jupiter is quite large already (nearly 41" arc) and will be high overhead by morning's dawn late in the month; a very favorable duration of the months to come for our largest planet- in LIBRA

Saturn - Very low in southeastern skies and rising about 3:30 a.m. local time, the ringed planet will make its yearly debut in predawn skies by mid-month.  Although destined to be a very nice object by summer throughout the night, this magnificent planet will be placed very low in the south throughout the year and hence somewhat less favorable for northern observers - in Sagittarius

Uranus - distant planet Uranus is setting in the west near Venus at mid-month.   It shines at magnitude 5.9, but will be visible in rather bright skies at dusk for only a brief time; as days progress this month, Uranus enters conjunction with the sun and will not be visible - PISCES

Neptune - Our most distant world, outside of Pluto, is now rising only a very short time ahead of the sun in strong twilight and will not be viewable for a couple of months.. - in AQUARIUS

Meteor Showers for March 2018

Always observe any meteor shower if possible when the MOON is absent from the sky; observing beginning at 11 p.m. and continuing until very early morning the following day will always result in increasing numbers of meteors seen for most meteor showers.

March 16 - Corona-Australid Meteors - An excellent year for this meteor shower since the moon is very near new phase and thus absent from the sky, and not hamper late night/early morning meteor observing of this very short duration and very southerly shower.   This brief shower, emanating as its name implies from within the southern constellation of Corona Australis, begins typically around March 14 and members can be traced back to that radiant until March 18; from the United States and Europe, this shower never gets above 7 degrees for its radiant, but brighter meteors can be seen streaking from south to north from it; as many as 15-17 meteors can be seen hourly in good conditions.

March 22 - Camelopardalid Meteors - Already high in the sky at dark, this meteor shower really has no definite peak, but a few meteors per hour can be seen coming from this very high northern meteor shower, only 22 degrees from the northern celestial pole;  hence it is "up all night" for those braving the cold temperatures of March.  Not only are there very few meteors to be seen from this rather dull shower, but the ones that ARE noticed travel the slowest across the sky of all known meteors....only about 7 kilometers per second!  We see them as they begin to burn at an altitude of about 80 kms (~50 miles) above the Earth's surface.  If you are interested, attempt to spot meteors from dark until about dawn but note that the absence of moonlight AFTER MIDNIGHT in 2018  local time) will allow for ideal conditions. 

March 22 - March Geminid Meteors - A good year for this meteor shower, since the moon will be absent in the sky after midnight local time....Discovered in 1973 by amateur astronomers, much is still to be learned on this shower, so this is one where you can make a valuable contribution by observing.  The radiant is high overhead for northern hemisphere observers at the time the sky truly gets dark, but because of bright moonlight, only the brightest meteors (if any) will be seen.   When first discovered in Hungary, nearly 50 meteors per hour in a short-burst stream were seen and this was confirmed again with sightings in 1975.  Like the Camelopardalids (above), the meteors in this stream are very slow and there is some possibility that the two showers could be linked to two diffuse clouds of debris from one parent object.  Any meteors from this unusual and elusive shower should be reported immediately to the American Meteor Society at: .

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