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SKY HAPPENINGS

Moab UT (at City Hall)
38O34’ N Latitude 109O33’ W Longitude
4048 ft - 1234 m

The Sky for March 2014
By Faylene Roth

 

Sunrise-Sunset
For March 2014

DATE

SUNRISE

SUNSET

1

6:50am

6:11pm

2

6:49am

6:12pm

3

6:47am

6:13pm

4

6:46am

6:14pm

5

6:44am

6:15pm

6

6:43am

6:16pm

7

6:41am

6:17pm

8

6:40am

6:18pm

9

7:38am

7:19pm

10

7:37am

7:20pm

11

7:35am

7:21pm

12

7:34am

7:22pm

13

7:32am

7:23pm

14

7:31am

7:24pm

15

7:29am

7:25pm

16

7:28am

7:26pm

17

7:26am

7:27pm

18

7:25am

7:28pm

19

7:23am

7:29pm

20

7:22am

7:30pm

21

7:20am

7:31pm

22

7:18am

7:32pm

23

7:17am

7:33pm

24

7:15am

7:34pm

25

7:14am

7:35pm

26

7:12am

7:36pm

27

7:11am

7:37pm

28

7:09am

7:38pm

29

7:08am

7:39pm

30

7:06am

7:40pm

31

7:04am

7:41pm

Ursa Major (Big Dipper) hangs high overhead in the northern sky at midnight. It separates the star-studded winter sky on the western horizon from the sparsely populated spring skies overhead and in the eastern sky. We stargazers look through the galaxy in different directions as the Earth moves through its orbit around the Sun. In winter our nighttime view was directed away from the center of the Milky Way but still through the densely populated plane of the galaxy. As spring skies approach, we look upward through the “top” of the galaxy—a mere distance of 1000 light years—with many fewer stars to stud our skies. In a few months our nighttime view will again look through the star-rich plane of the Milky Way, but this time our gaze is directed towards the galaxy center.

DAYLENGTH
Daylight time begins on Sunday, March 9, at 2:00am. The time change does not provide added daylight hours, but it does shift the period of daylight towards the end of the day. March does, however, contribute the greatest monthly gain—78 minutes—in the amount of daylight we receive in the northern hemisphere. The rapid gain in daylight results from the Earth’s changing position and speed in its orbit. The ecliptic (apparent path of sun across the sky) continues to rise higher in the sky after the winter solstice (providing longer days) and the Earth’s speed remains relatively fast (increasing the amount of daily gain) after the slingshot effect it receives from swinging around the near end of its elliptical orbit.

Twilight begins and ends each day in three stages. Astronomical twilight brightens the eastern horizon about one and one-half hours before sunrise. During the next 30 minutes, nautical twilight overtakes the sky as it continues to brighten and brings color to the surrounding landscape. One half hour before sunrise civil twilight begins with enough ambient light to perform most outdoor activities. The reverse progression occurs in the western sky with sunset. Civil twilight ends as the quality of light declines. Nautical twilight ends with overhead skies darkened but with light remaining on the horizon. Finally, one and one-half hours after sunset light fades from the horizon and night begins. .

MOON HAPPENINGS
March 1 – New Moon occurs at 2:00am.
March 8 – First Quarter Moon brightens western sky until after midnight.
March 16 – Full Moon occurs at 11:08am and rises at 7:46pm.
March 24 – Last Quarter Moon rises several hours after midnight.
March 30 – New Moon occurs at 12:45pm.
(The time of moonrise and moonset assumes a flat horizon. Actual time may vary.)
Use the moon to identify major stars and visible clusters in the night sky. On March 7 look for the Pleiades cluster of six visible stars 7° above a nearly quarter moon. Aldebaran (Taurus) lies 9° west of the moon on March 7 and 6° east on March 8. On the nights of March 12 and 13 a waxing full moon passes below the beehive cluster in Cancer at a distance of 9°. On March 14 find Regulus 7° above and to the east of the moon and 10° above and to the west on March 15. On March 18 the moon is 8° below and east of Spica. On March 22 it is 7° above and east of Antares (Scorpius).

ZODIACAL LIGHT
The zodiacal light continues to catch residual dust within our solar system in the strong rays of light that shoot upward as the sun drops below the horizon each evening before the vernal equinox. Look for a cone of hazy white light nearly perpendicular to the western horizon. The best time to see it is at the end of astronomical twilight. It remains visible for about one hour.

METEOR EVENTS
No major meteor showers occur during March but fireballs along the line of the ecliptic often blaze across the sky during the early spring months.

Note: Hold your hand at arm’s length to measure apparent distances in the sky. The width of the little finger approximates 1.5̊. Middle, ring, and little finger touching represent about 5̊. The width of a fist is about 10̊. The fist with the thumb extended at a right angle equals 15̊. The hand stretched from thumb to little finger approximates 20̊-25̊. The diameter of both the full moon and the sun spans only 0.5̊. Adjust for the size of your hand.

Primary Sources: USGS; U.S. Naval Observatory; Your Sky at http://www.fourmilab.ch/yoursky/
To find out when the space shuttle and International Space Station are visible from your location, go to: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/index.html and click on Sighting Opportunities.

VISIBLE PLANETS
Jupiter- Find Jupiter overhead in the evening sky about 10° west of twin stars Castor and Pollux (Gemini). It outshines everything in this star-rich region of the Milky Way. Jupiter ends its western retrograde motion on March 6. Within a few weeks its return to “normal” eastern motion becomes evident. On March 10 it hangs above and left of a waxing gibbous moon. (Magnitude -2.1)

Mars- Watch Mars pass east to west about 5° above Spica (Virgo) during the month. On March 19 a waxing full moon appears 5° below Mars and about 6° from Spica. For most of the month Mars rises after astronomical twilight darkens the evening sky. By morning twilight, Mars is visible high in the western sky. By month’s end, its magnitude will have increased by half. (Magnitude -0.5)

Saturn- Wait until after midnight to look for Saturn in the southeastern sky. Its golden orb rises in the upper left corner of faint Libra—about 25-30° below Mars. Its only competition in this region of the night sky will be red-tinged Mars and blue-tinted Spica above. On March 21 a waning gibbous moon follows 3° below Saturn. Saturn remains visible overhead in early morning twilight. (Magnitude +1.0)

Venus- By the time Venus rises in the southeastern sky, it may be the only object (moon excepted) brilliant enough to compete with morning twilight. It moves from Sagittarius to Capricorn during the first week of the month, but the stars of these two constellations will be too faint to be observed. On March 26 a waning last quarter moon leads Venus into the morning sky by several degrees. (Magnitude -4.4)

Note: Apparent magnitude values range from -4 to +6 for most planets and visible stars. The lower the value the brighter the object. A decrease of 1.0 magnitude is 2.5 times brighter.

MAJOR CONSTELLATIONS this MONTH

Overhead
Canis Minor
Cancer
Gemini
Leo

Northward
Cassiopeia
Cepheus
Ursa Major
Ursa Minor

Eastward
Boötes
Cancer
Leo

Southward
Canis Major
Hydra
Orion

Westward
Auriga
Perseus
Taurus

Hold the star chart high above your head and match the compass directions to the direction you are facing. Adjust the star chart by orienting Ursa Major (Big Dipper) to match its position in the sky.

The star chart approximates the sky from astronomical twilight to midnight. As the night and month progresses, the constellations shift toward the northwest. The celestial equator is measured in hours (h). The ecliptic is measured in degrees.

 
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