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March 2012 Celestial Calendar

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#1 Dave Mitsky

Dave Mitsky


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Posted 01 March 2012 - 02:44 AM

March Celestial Calendar by Dave Mitsky

All times, unless otherwise noted, are UT (subtract five hours and, when appropriate, one calendar day for EST and four hours for EDT from March 11 onwards)

3/1 First Quarter Moon occurs at 1:21
3/2 Mercury is at perihelion today
3/3 Mars (magnitude -1.23, apparent size 13.89") is at opposition at 20:00
3/5 Mercury is at its greatest eastern elongation (18 degrees) at 10:00; Mars is closest to the Earth (0.6737 astronomical units or 100,780,000 kilometers) at 17:00
3/6 Mercury is 3 degrees north of Uranus at 23:00
3/8 Mars is 10 degrees north of the Moon at 6:00; Full Moon (known as the Crow, Lenten, and Sap Moon) occurs at 9:39
3/10 The Moon is at perigee, subtending 33 arc minutes from a distance of 362,400 kilometers (225,185 miles), at 10:00; the Moon is 1.5 degrees south of the first-magnitude star Spica (Alpha Virginis) at 21:00
3/11 Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins today; Saturn is 6 degrees north of the Moon at 7:00; Mercury is stationary at 21:00
3/12 Mercury is at its greatest heliocentric latitude north today; asteroid 5 Astraea (magnitude 9.0) is at opposition at 0:00
3/15 Last Quarter Moon occurs at 1:25; Venus is 3 degrees north of Jupiter at 10:00; a double Galilean satellite shadow transit (Io’s shadow follows Ganymede’s) begins at 23:27
3/16 The Curtiss Cross, an X-shaped illumination effect located between the craters Parry and Gambart, is predicted to occur at 15:29
3/20 Vernal equinox occurs at 5:14; Neptune is 6 degrees south of the Moon at 7:00; asteroid 8 Flora (magnitude 9.6) is at opposition at 9:00
3/21 Venus is at perihelion today; Mercury is at inferior conjunction at 19:00
3/22 New Moon (lunation 1104) occurs at 14:37
3/23 A double Galilean satellite transit (Io follows Ganymede) begins at 0:32; a double Galilean satellite shadow transit (Ganymede’s shadow follows Io’s) begins at 2:36
3/24 Uranus is in conjunction with the Sun at 24:18
3/26 Jupiter is 3 degrees south of the Moon at 0:00; the Moon is at apogee, subtending 29 arc minutes from a distance of 405,776 kilometers (252,138 miles), at 6:00; Venus is 1.8 degrees north of the Moon at 18:00
3/27 Venus is at greatest eastern elongation (46 degrees) at 8:00; asteroid 3 Juno is stationary at 11:00
3/30 Summer begins today in the northern hemisphere of Mars; the Lunar X (also known as the Purbach or Werner Cross), an X-shaped illumination effect involving various rims and ridges between the craters La Caille, Blanchinus, and Purbach, is predicted to occur at 3:04; a double Galilean satellite (Ganymede follows Io) transit begins at 3:26; First Quarter Moon occurs at 19:41

John Herschel (1792-1871), Percival Lowell (1855-1916), Albert Einstein (1879-1955), and Walter Baade (1893-1960) were born this month.

The zodiacal light is visible in the west after sunset from dark sites during mid-March (March 10 to March 24).

The Moon is located in Taurus and is 8.1 days old at 0:00 UT on March 1. It's at its greatest northern declination of +22.2 degrees on March 1 and +21.9 degrees on March 28 and its greatest southern declination of -22.0 degrees on March 14. Latitudinal libration is at a maximum of +6.5 degrees on March 7 and a minimum of -6.6 degrees on March 20. Longitudinal libration is at a maximum of +5.7 degrees on March 17 and a minimum of -6.9 degrees on March 4. The moon occults the fifth-magnitude star 114 Tauri on the evening of March 1 for observers in the eastern United States and southern Ontario. An occultation of the third-magnitude star Zeta Tauri is visible on the morning of March 2 from the Northeast United States and most of the Midwest. On the night of March 2 or the morning of March 3, depending on location, the fourth-magnitude star Nu Geminorum is occulted for most of eastern and central North America. Consult http://www.lunar-occ...bstar/bstar.htm for further information on these events. The first photograph of the Moon was taken on March 23, 1840. Visit http://www.astronomy.../?xjMsgID=50821 for tips on spotting extreme crescent Moons and http://www.curtrenz.com/moon06.html for Full Moon data. Times and dates for the lunar light rays predicted to occur during March are available at http://www.lunar-occ...o/rays/rays.htm

The Sun is in Aquarius on March 1 at 0:00 UT. It crosses the celestial equator at 1:14 a.m. EDT on March 20, bringing spring to the northern hemisphere.

Brightness, apparent size, illumination, distance from the Earth in astronomical units, and location data for the planets and Pluto on March 1: Mercury (magnitude -0.9, 6.4", 66% illuminated, 1.04 a.u., Pisces), Venus (magnitude -4.3, 18.4", 64% illuminated, 0.91 a.u., Pisces), Mars (magnitude -1.2, 13.8", 100% illuminated, 0.68 a.u., Leo), Jupiter (magnitude -2.2, 36.1", 99% illuminated, 5.47 a.u., Aries), Saturn (magnitude 0.4, 18.4", 100% illuminated, 9.02 a.u., Virgo), Uranus (magnitude 5.9, 3.3", 100% illuminated, 20.99 a.u., Pisces), Neptune (magnitude 8.0, 2.2", 100% illuminated, 30.98 a.u., Aquarius), and Pluto (magnitude 14.1, 0.1", 100% illuminated, 32.64 a.u., Sagittarius).

Visibility of the classical planets at local DST from 40 degrees north latitude at midmonth: Venus sets at 11:00 pm; Mars is visible the entire night; Jupiter sets at 11:00 p.m.; Saturn rises at 10:00 p.m. and transits at 3:00 a.m.

Mercury (in early March), Venus, Jupiter, and Uranus can be seen in the west and Mars in the east. Mars is located in the south and Saturn in the southeast at midnight. Mars is in the west, Saturn is in the southwest, and Neptune is in the east in the morning sky.

Mercury is visible during evening twilight early in the month. Mercury and Uranus are four degrees apart on the evening of March 1. The speedy planet is at perihelion on March 2 and at greatest eastern elongation on March 5. This will be Mercury’s best evening apparition of the year for observers at mid-northern latitudes. Mercury decreases in brightness (it dims a full magnitude in only five days) and illumination but increases five arc seconds in angular diameter during March. Mercury is too faint to be seen without optical aid by March 13.

During March, Venus increases in magnitude from -4.3 to -4.5, grows in angular size by six arc seconds, and drops in illumination from 64% to 49%. Venus enters the constellation of Aries on March 4. Venus and Jupiter are situated less than five degrees from one another on March 9. The two brightest planets, shining at magnitudes -4.4 and -2.1 respectively, are approximately three degrees apart from March 11 to March 15 and are in conjunction on the morning of March 15. The next conjunction of Venus and Jupiter won’t occur until May 28, 2013. Venus also has close encounters with the Moon on March 26 and M45 (the Pleiades) on March 31. It is at greatest eastern elongation on March 26. On that date, Venus appears more than 40 degrees above the horizon, its greatest altitude of the current 8-year apparition cycle. By the end of March, Venus sets nearly four hours after the Sun.

Mars reaches opposition on March 3. On that date, it shines at magnitude -1.2 and is visible from sunset to sunrise. This year’s opposition is the most distant since 1995. On March 5, when it‘s closest to our planet, Mars is 5.6 light-minutes from the Earth. Over the course of the month, the rapid retrograde motion of the planet carries it almost ten degrees closer to the first-magnitude star Regulus (Alpha Leonis). On March 16 and March 17, the Red Planet passes between the galaxies M95 and M105. Mars is just eleven arc minutes north-northwest of the galaxy M96 on March 17 and half a degree north of M95 on March 17 and March 18. On March 20, the planet's apparent brightness drops below magnitude -1.0. Mars shrinks in apparent size from 13.8 to 12.6 arc seconds and dims by 0.5 magnitude by month’s end. An article on the 2012 opposition appears on page 50 of the November issue of Sky & Telescope. Additional information can be found at the following URLs: http://www.curtrenz.com/mars, http://www.alpo-astr...h/2012_MARS.htm, and http://spider.seds.o...s/mars2012.html

Jupiter sinks lower in the sky with each passing night. During March, the gas giant drops two arc seconds in angular diameter. A double Galilean satellite transit and shadow transit involving Io and Ganymede takes place on the evening of March 22. Jupiter is three degrees north of the waxing crescent Moon on March 25. Browse http://skyandtelesco...ticle_107_1.asp in order to determine transit times of Jupiter’s central meridian by the Great Red Spot. Data on the Galilean satellites is available at http://skytonight.co...t/3307071.html#

By the end of the month, Saturn rises about one hour after sunset. The Ringed Planet retrogrades slowly through Virgo and is six degrees from the first-magnitude star Spica (Alpha Virginis) by March 31. The ring tilt angle during March is 15 degrees. Eight-magnitude Titan is positioned north of Saturn on the nights of March 10 and March 26 and south of the planet on March 2 and March 18. Iapetus shines at eleventh-magnitude as it passes 2.5 arc minutes northeast of Saturn on the morning of March 1. Titan was discovered on March 25, 1655 by the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens. For further information on Saturn’s satellites, browse http://skytonight.co...pt/3308506.html

Uranus is in conjunction with the Sun on March 24 and consequently is not visible this month. Sir William Herschel discovered Uranus on March 13, 1781. The rings of Uranus were discovered on March 10, 1977.

Neptune reappears low in the morning sky in late March but is more easily seen by observers in the southern hemisphere.

It may be possible to observe Pluto just before dawn this month.

For more on the planets and how to locate them, browse http://www.nakedeyeplanets.com/

Asteroid 6 Hebe (magnitude 9.5) heads northwest through Leo this month. The 186-kilometer-sized main belt asteroid spends the latter part of March between 51 and Gamma Leonis. Heinrich Olbers discovered asteroid 2 Pallas on March 28, 1802 and asteroid 4 Vesta on March 29, 1807. An occultation of a tenth-magnitude star by asteroid 57 Mnemosyne will be visible along a path extending from Delaware to southern California at 4:19 UT on March 11. Click on http://www.asteroido...om/IndexAll.htm for additional information on this event.

Comet C/2009 P1 (Garradd) shines at approximately seventh magnitude as it travels through Ursa Minor and Draco and into Ursa Major. The comet is closest to the Earth (1.27 a.u.) on March 5. It cruises within one degree of the faint, barred-spiral galaxy NGC 4236 on March 13 and within approximately ¼ degree of the fourth-magnitude star Lambda Draconis on March 17. On March 20, C/2009 P1 passes five degrees southeast of the bright spiral galaxy M81 in Ursa Major. A finder chart is available on page 60 of the March issue of Sky & Telescope. Visit http://cometchasing.skyhound.com/ for additional information on this comet and others visible in March.

A free star map for March can be downloaded at http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html

The famous eclipsing variable star Algol (Beta Persei) is at a minimum, decreasing in magnitude from 2.1 to 3.4, on March 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, 29, and 31. For more on Algol, see http://stars.astro.i.../sow/Algol.html and http://www.solstatio...ars2/algol3.htm

Thirty binary and multiple stars for March: Struve 1173, Struve 1181, Struve 1187, Zeta Cancri, 24 Cancri, Phi-2 Cancri, Iota-1 Cancri, Struve 1245, Iota-2 Cancri, 66 Cancri, Struve 1327 (Cancer); Struve 1270, Epsilon Hydrae, 15 Hydrae, 17 Hydrae, Theta Hydrae, 27 Hydrae, Struve 1347, Struve 1357, Struve 1365 (Hydra); 3 Leonis, Struve 1360, 6 Leonis, Omicron Leonis (Leo); Struve 1274, Struve 1282, Struve 1333, 38 Lyncis, Struve 1369 (Lynx); h4046 (Puppis)

Notable carbon star for March: T Cancri (Cancer)

Thirty-five deep-sky objects for March: M44, M67, NGC 2775 (Cancer); Abell 33, M48, NGC 2610, NGC 2642, NGC 2811, NGC 2835, NGC 2855, NGC 2935, NGC 2992, NGC 3052, NGC 3078 (Hydra); NGC 2903, NGC 2916, NGC 2964, NGC 2968, NGC 3020 (Leo); NGC 2859, NGC 3003, NGC 3021 (Leo Minor); NGC 2683 (Lynx); NGC 2567, NGC 2571 (Puppis); M81, M82, NGC 2639, NGC 2654, NGC 2681, NGC 2685, NGC 2742, NGC 2768, NGC 2787, NGC 2841, NGC 2880, NGC 2950, NGC 2976, NGC 2985 (Ursa Major)

Top ten binocular deep-sky objects for March: M44, M48, M67, M81, M82, NGC 2571, NGC 2683, NGC 2841, NGC 2903, NGC 2976

Top ten deep-sky objects for March: M44, M48, M67, M81, M82, NGC 2654, NGC 2683, NGC 2835, NGC 2841, NGC 2903

Challenge deep-sky object for March: Abell 30 (Cancer)

The objects listed above are located between 8:00 and 10:00 hours of right ascension.

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