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NIGHT SKY HAPPENINGS

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

The Sky for March 2017
By Faylene Roth

 

Sunrise-Sunset
for March

(The time of sunrise and sunset assumes a flat horizon. Actual time may vary depending upon the landscape.)

DATE

SUNRISE

SUNSET

1

6:50am

6:12pm

2

6:48am

6:13pm

3

6:47am

6:14pm

4

6:46am

6:15pm

5

6:44am

6:16pm

6

6:43am

6:17pm

7

6:41am

6:18pm

8

6:40am

6:19pm

9

6:38am

6:20pm

10

6:37am

6:21pm

11

6:35am

6:22pm

12*

7:34am

7:23pm

13

7:32am

7:24pm

14

7:30am

7:25pm

15

7:29am

7:26pm

16

7:27am

7:27pm

17

7:26am

7:28pm

18

7:24am

7:29pm

19

7:23am

7:30pm

20**

7:21am

7:30pm

21

7:20am

7:31pm

22

7:18am

7:32pm

23

7:16am

7:33pm

24

7:15am

7:34pm

25

7:13am

7:35pm

26

7:12am

7:36pm

27

7:10am

7:37pm

28

7:09am

7:38pm

29

7:07am

7:39pm

30

7:06am

7:40pm

31

7:04am

7:41pm

*Daylight Time Begins

**Spring Equinox - 4:20am

Ursa Major (Big Dipper) hangs high overhead in the northern sky at midnight—separating the brightly-studded winter sky above the western horizon from the dimly-shining springtime stars appearing above the lone brightly-shining (0 magnitude) orange-tinted star Arcturus (Boötes), harbinger of spring. As Boötes rises, extend the arc about 30 ̊ downward to bluish 1st magnitude Spica (Virgo). Trace the two stars of the dipper that attach to the handle southward to another 1st magnitude blue-tinged star, Regulus (Leo).

Twilight extends the period of daylight in three stages at each end of the day. Morning twilight begins with astronomical twilight—about 1-1/2 hours (nearly 2 during summer months) before sunrise—as the eastern horizon brightens. Nautical twilight continues—as the overhead sky turns blue and color returns to the surrounding landscape—for another 30-40 minutes. The final stage—civil twilight—provides adequate light for most outdoor activities for the half hour before the sun crests the horizon. The opposite progression occurs after sunset.

VISIBLE PLANETS
Evening (Before Midnight)
Mars – visible as a small red disk between
Pisces and Aries about 12 ̊ above Venus. (Magnitude +1.5)
Venus – disappears from the evening sky by March 20 then reaches inferior conjunction with the sun on March 25 and may be visible in mid-morning twilight by month’s end. (Magnitude -4.3)

Morning (At Twilight)
Jupiter –visible soon after midnight on the eastern horizon in Virgo. (Magnitude -2.2)
Saturn – rises in Sagittarius around 3:30am as Jupiter passes high overhead. (Magnitude +1.3)

MOON HAPPENINGS
March 5 – Waxing first quarter moon lights the evening sky then sets soon after midnight.
March 12 – Full moon (8:54am) rises at 7:42pm.
March 20 – Dark evening skies return with the waning last quarter moon rising after midnight.
March 27 – New moon (8:57pm) yields dark skies for several nights.

(The moon rises later each day—as little as 30 minutes to as much as one hour. Time of moonrise and moonset may also be delayed in mountainous terrain.)

Twilight is often the best time to look for Venus and Mercury because they frequently rise or set within one-half to one hour of sunrise or sunset. Twilight transitions between night and day in three stages at each end of the day. Morning twilight begins with astronomical twilight as the eastern horizon brightens —about 1-1/2 hours (nearly 2 during summer months) before sunrise when the sun is 18 ̊ below the horizon. Nautical twilight takes over for another 30-40 minutes—as the sun passes 12 ̊ below the horizon and the overhead sky turns blue and color returns to the surrounding landscape. The final stage—civil twilight—begins when the sun ascends to 6 ̊ below the horizon and provides adequate light for most outdoor activities for the half hour before the sun crests the horizon. The opposite progression occurs after sunset. Civil twilight covers the period after sunset during which daytime light quality persists for about one-half hour. Color then fades from the landscape during the 30-40 minute period of nautical twilight during which the overhead sky darkens while the western sky retains color. Astronomical twilight then transitions to night skies that are now darkened along the horizon.

CELESTIAL HAPPENINGS
No major meteor showers occur this month, but fireballs often appear along the ecliptic and slow-moving meteors from the radiants of Camelopardalis (Giraffe) and Gemini (Twins) are not uncommon on dark nights. The zodiacal light appears in the western night sky for several weeks before and after the equinox. Look due west on a moonless night one-half hour after astronomical twilight ends for a cone-shaped beam of sunlight shooting straight up as high as 60 ̊ from the point where the sun set. The beam is reflecting dust particles in the inner solar system. After the equinox look for the zodiacal light one-half hour before morning twilight begins. Comet 41P/Tuttle- Giacobini- Kresak is predicted to reach 5th magnitude in late March/early April. It will be visible throughout the night traveling along a line from the top of Leo’s head (March 1) northward through the cup of the Big Dipper then arcing along Draco’s tail between Ursa Major and U. Minor (March 31). The website at http://www.cometwatch.co.uk/ provides Upcoming and Currently Observable tabs for updates.

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.

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

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.

 
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