Astronomy: The Week Ahead – Sun 01 Mar – Sat 07 Mar 2015


Sunday March 1

Lepus “The Hare” is a small constellation below Orion, due south an hour after sunset tonight. Its Alpha magnitude 2.56 Alpha star Arneb is 1,305 light years distant and has the luminosity of 13,561 suns! Compare that to Nihal, the mag 2.78 Beta star, at 159 light years, luminosity 191 suns.

Two objects are of special interest. M79-a smallish mag 7.7 globular cluster, and Hind’s Crimson Star (R Leporis), a variable ranging from magnitude 5.5 to 11.5 over 427 days. It is very red when at its dimmest.


Monday March 2

M3 is a giant globular cluster in the constellation Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs). It is easy to locate today, an hour before sunrise, almost half way between Canes Venatici’s brightest star Cor Caroli, and Arcturus in Bootes. Find Canes Venatici below the handle of the Big Dipper. View M3 in binoculars or a telescope.

Discovered by Charles Messier in 1784, its radius is 90 light years, apparent size of 18′ and above average distance of 33,900 light years. Its age? Estimated at 11.3 billion years!


Tuesday March 3

A favorite double star is Alberio, because of its great color contrast. But here’s a bit dimmer twin to Alberio – Gamma Andromedea, or Almach, the last star in one of the twin-arcs of the constellation Andromeda. With Andromeda heading down in the west, Almach is at the end of the southernmost arc. With a separation of 10 arc-seconds, it is an easy split, with the sapphire blue and golden yellow colors showing nicely

And, don’t forget to look at Venus and Mars, still putting on a nice show due west after sunset.


Wednesday March 4

Stay up late tonight to enjoy Io’s shadow transit across Jupiter. It begins at 00:48 a.m. with Io already on the disk near the meridian. As Io prepares to leave the disk the shadow passes the meridian at 02:12, and the Great Red Spot (GRS) is about to enter. As the shadow leaves at 3:45, the GRS is in prime view.


Thursday March 5

This is the last Full Moon of winter. Among its many names are Worm Moon, Crust Moon, Crow Moon, Sap Moon and Lenten Moon.

This full Moon rises almost due east and is also “average” looking in size. At 384,000 km. distance, it is nearly midpoint between apogee and perigee.

Notice too, the ecliptic (green line) is very high, near the spring equinox. The moon and Jupiter are close to it, as is Regulus in Leo.


Friday March 6

Moving stealthily through the northern skies is the dim constellation Lynx. It is made of very faint stars, the brightest of which zigzag between the Big Dipper and the stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini

This is a “modern” constellation, one of ten conceived of by 17th century celestial chart maker Johannes Hevelius.

The most notable deep sky object in Lynx is NGC 2419, a small globular cluster known as the Intergalactic Wanderer, the most distant Milky Way globular cluster at 300,000 light years from earth.


Saturday March 7

With spring skies on the rise, beginning with Leo, let’s enjoy one of the last great winter Messier objects visible easily in binoculars. The Beehive open cluster in Cancer appears as a faint glow at magnitude 3.7, between Regulus in Leo and Procyon in Canis Minor. Jupiter is currently a great locator. The cluster is best in wide field binocular, as it is huge in angular size at 1-1/2 degrees. At about 600 million years old, it is still a young cluster, and is among the closest objects of its type to us, at around 550 light years distant. This is an object everyone can enjoy!

Also tonight, don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour before turning in for the night!

Happy viewing!