Skywatch Line for Wednesday, April 4th, and Thursday, April 5th, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, April 4th, and Thursday, April 5th, written by Louis Suarato.

The 84% illuminated, waning gibbous Moon sets at 9:14 a.m., and rises again at 11:53 p.m., 80% illuminated, between the constellations Ophiuchus and Scorpius. Scorpius’ brightest star, Antares, can be found to the Moon’s lower right, while Jupiter shines to the Moon’s upper right. Look for Venus before it sets in the west at 9:07 p.m. below the Pleiades star cluster. Saturn and Mars rise in Sagittarius at 2:09 and 2:21 overnight, 2 degrees apart.

Two of the brightest stars in our sky are visible these nights. The brightest, Sirius, in the constellation Canes Major, shines at magnitude -1.45. Sirius is 8.6 light-years away, and this binary system contains two of the eight closest stars to our Sun. Its luminosity is 25 times that of our Sun, which combined with its close proximity, contributes to Sirius’ brightness. Look over the southwestern horizon around 9 p.m. for the brightest star in the sky. Orion’s belt points southward to Sirius. The second brightest star in the sky is Arcturus. Found in the constellation Bootes, Arcturus shines at magnitude 0.15, and along with Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, and Leo’s brightest, Regulus, these stars form the asterism known as the Spring Triangle. Arcturus is 36.7 light-years away and 25 times the diameter of the Sun, and 170 times as luminous. Look for Arcturus after 9p.m. over the eastern horizon. The stars forming the handle of the Big Dipper point down to Arcturus.

There’s a small, faint constellation above Arcturus called Coma Berenices. This constellation is comprised of three 4th magnitude stars forming a 45 degree angle covering 386.5 square degrees.When looking towards Coma Berenices, you are looking perpendicular to the disk of the Milky Way, and away from the stars and dust forming our galaxy, therefor providing the clearest view of galaxies outside of our own. This region contains the Coma Galaxy Cluster, and the Virgo Galaxy Cluster, each hosting more than 1,000 galaxies. It is also the home of 8 Messier objects. Also found within Coma Berenices, is a loose open star cluster known as Melotte 111, or the Coma Star Cluster. This star cluster is about 7.5 degrees wide, or three quarters the width of a fist held at arm’s length, and contains 40 brighter stars ranging from magnitudes 5 to 10. The brightest stars form a V-shape as Coma Berenices is rising. The Coma Star Cluster is 280 light-years away and is approximately 450 million years old. Look for Melotte 111 at the top of Coma Berenices, and to the east of Denebola in Regulus.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, April 2nd and 3rd, 2018

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, April 2nd and 3rd.

The Sun sets at 7:22 PM; night falls at 9:00. Dawn begins at 4:56 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:34.

Venus, in Aries, is the sole bright planet in the evening sky. It appears about 94 percent illuminated, glows with minus 4th magnitude, is about 13 degrees high in the southwest and sets at 9:05 PM. Uranus, in Pisces, is becoming difficult to see naked eye. Binoculars or telescopes may pick out the 6th magnitude planet amid the darkening sky, about 7 degrees below Venus. Uranus sets at 8:34 PM.

Libra houses both the Moon and Jupiter. The 17-day-old Moon rises at 9:48 PM on Monday, appearing about 92 percent lit and blazing at minus 11th magnitude; it is best observed at 3:15 AM. Tuesday’s Moon rises at 10:50 PM, appearing a bit dimmer and slimmer, and best observed at 4:03 AM.

Jupiter rises at 10:33 PM, glowing with minus 2nd magnitude. This month, Jupiter brightens a bit and also appears slightly larger. Jupiter is positioned in Libra so that Monday’s Moon lies about 7 degrees above the planet, and Tuesday’s Moon about 7 degrees below. The Great Red Spot can be telescopically observed at 3:36 AM Tuesday.

By Dawn, Mars and Saturn, in Sagittarius, join the Moon and Jupiter. Yesterday, Mars was about the same distance from Earth as Earth is far from the Sun. Mars also brightens from 0.3 magnitude to minus 0.4. Mars and Saturn are in conjunction on April 2nd; they are around 1 degree apart on both nights.

Saturn rises at 2:13 AM, shining at 0.5 magnitude and 20 degrees high in the South; is lies about 47 degrees from Jupiter. Saturn also brightens slightly this month.

Red Planet Mars rises at 2:21 AM, appearing 88 percent lit and 8 arc-seconds in size, which provides marginal telescopic views.

The asteroid 4Vesta is also visible in the Dawn sky. Rising at 1:16 AM, it glows at 7th magnitude and appears as a tiny 0.4 arc-seconds in size. It lies within 2 degrees of the binocular star cluster M-23. Vesta is the fourth dwarf planet to be discovered. It orbits the Sun every 3.6 years, and is nearing opposition, which occurs in June. Like the first three asteroids, Vesta was temporarily named a planet, until astronomers realized their small size. Vesta is the brightest asteroid. It can be seen in binoculars from a dark, rural site. Vesta currently inhabits Sagittarius. Those seeking Vesta should consult magazine articles and web sites to identify the asteroid amid similar looking stars.

Hydra, the Water Snake, wends its way southward beneath Cancer and Leo. Two constellations ride on its back, Corvus and Crater. Corvus is known as either a Raven or a Crow, due to conflicting legends. One story depicts a snow-white Raven as Apollo’s messenger. When the Raven gives Apollo the especially bad news that his wife was unfaithful, the angry god changed the Raven’s feathers black (the color of contemporary ravens) and banished him to the sky. The other myth sees the Crow again as Apollo’s messenger. When the god asks for a cup (Crater) of water, the Crow departs, but is distracted by a fig tree, full of ripening fruit. The Crow took too long, returning with a water snake (Hydra) in his claws. The fuming deity exiled the bird, the snake and the cup to the night sky.

Skywatch Line for Friday, March 30 through Sunday, April 1, 2018

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, March 30 through Sunday, April 1, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, the Sun rises at 6:41am and sets at 7:20pm; Moon sets at 6:32am and rises at 6:30pm. Full Moon occurs on Saturday at 8:37am. This is the second full Moon in the month of March, which makes it a “blue” Moon. This is the second blue Moon of 2018. The previous one occurred at the end of January. On Friday and Saturday, watch for the Moon to shine in the vicinity of the 1st-magnitude star Spica from dusk till dawn. The Moon and Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, light up the eastern sky as darkness falls. They climb highest up for the night around midnight and sit low in the west at dawn.

Mercury has departed the celestial stage after its brief dusk apparition. Venus, the “evening star” is gradually climbing higher. Gleaming at magnitude –3.9, Venus is easy to spot, hovering above the west horizon shortly after sunset and remaining visible until the end of astronomical twilight. Jupiter Rises at around 11:30pm. Shining at magnitude –2.4, Jupiter is at its best at around 4:20am, when it’s highest and due south. As morning twilight begins Mars and Saturn are well up in the south-southwest. The two planets are close both in in northern Sagittarius. Mars, at magnitude 0.3, outshines 0.5-magnitude Saturn by a slight margin. Check out Saturn in the dawn sky. The ideal time to observe Saturn is between 5:30 and 6:00am when the planet is approaching its greatest altitude and before twilight becomes overwhelmingly bright. Try to spot the famous Cassini Division, a 4,700-kilometer-wide gap that separates Saturn’s two brightest rings. With the Saturn rings currently tilted open almost the maximum amount these days, under good seeing conditions, this feature is visible even in a small telescope.

Before sunrise on Monday, see Mars pair up with Saturn in the predawn/dawn sky. At that time, the Moon and Jupiter will have moved over into the western half of sky. Mars and Saturn rise around one and one-half hours after midnight.

On Sunday and through the week, try to spot Sirius with your naked eyes before sunset and follow Vega in the early sunrise into daylight.

Easter and Passover are celebrated this “full Moon” weekend. Easter and Passover are tied to the lunar cycle. Easter is observed on the first Sunday after the first full Moon of spring. The Passover starts in the middle of the Hebrew month of Nissan, when the Moon is full. Nissan usually falls in March or April of the Gregorian calendar.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 28th, and Thursday, March 29th, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 28th, and Thursday, March 29th, written by Louis Suarato.

The 91% illuminated, waxing gibbous Moon rises at 4:22 p.m. Wednesday. As the sky darkens, look for Leo’s brightest star, Regulus about 5 degrees to the upper right of the Moon. Venus sets at 8:50 p.m., 77% illuminated. Thursday, Venus and Uranus will be less than a degree apart. Use binoculars in your search for Uranus to the lower right of Venus. Jupiter rises at 10:58 p.m. in Libra. Mars and Saturn rise in Sagittarius at 2:33 and 2:36 a.m., 2 degrees apart. There are two globular clusters 1 to 2 degrees to the lower right of each planet. To the lower right of Mars is the globular cluster M28. Discovered by Charles Messier on July 17, 1764, M28 is 17,900 light-years from Earth, and its stars are estimated to be about 12 billion years old. M28 has a diameter of 60 light-years, and contains at least 50,000 stars. The Great Sagittarius Cluster, also known as M22, is to the lower right of Saturn. When Abraham Ihle found this globular cluster on August 26, 1665 while observing Saturn, it was one of the first to be discovered. At magnitude 5.10, it is one of the brightest globular clusters, and at the distance of 10,600 light-years, M22 is one of the nearest. The estimated 83,000 stars within the Great Sagittarius Cluster are also estimated to be about 12 billion years old.

March 29th is the anniversary of Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers’ discovery of asteroid 4 Vesta. When Olbers observed 4 Vesta for the first time in 1807, it was the only asteroid visible to the naked eye. With a diameter of 326 miles, 4 Vesta is one of the largest objects in the asteroid belt. 4 Vesta is second only to dwarf-planet Ceres in mass, accounting for 9% of the total mass of all asteroids. 4 Vesta formed about 1 to 2 million years after the solar system, around 4.5 billion years ago. Look for 4 Vesta about 10 degrees to the upper right of Mars, and 2 degrees above star cluster M23.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, March 26th and 27th, 2018

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, March 26th and 27th.

The Sun sets at 7:14 PM; night falls at 8:51. Dawn begins at 5:10 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:46.

The 10-day-old Moon illuminates the southern evening sky. Monday, it is in Cancer, very close to M-44 (the Beehive star cluster.) It blazes at minus 11th magnitude and is three-quarters lit, 57 degrees above the southern horizon. It is best observed at 9:19 PM on Monday and sets at 4:40 AM Tuesday. Tuesday’s Moon, in Leo, is brighter, fatter and 85 percent phase. Tuesday’s Moon is best observed at 10:15 PM and sets at 5:21 AM on Wednesday.

Pisces contains all three evening planets. Venus is the brightest of the trio. It shines at minus 4th magnitude, appears about 95 percent illuminated, about 11 degrees above the western horizon and sets at 8:47 PM. Nine degrees below Venus lies Mercury. This elusive planet glows at 3rd magnitude, appears about 61 percent illuminated about 4 degrees above the horizon and sets at 8:09 PM. Uranus, 2 degrees above Venus, is at 6th magnitude, a tiny 3.4 arc-seconds in size and sets at 9 PM.

Jupiter rises in Libra at 11:03 PM. The brightest object in the constellation, it shines at minus 2nd magnitude, and is a large 43 arc-seconds in size. By Midnight it is 8 degrees above the eastern horizon and is best observed at 3:59 AM. Telescopic sky watchers can see the Great Red Spot (a giant storm on Jupiter) centered on Jupiter’s face at 2:49 AM on Tuesday.

Sagittarius contains Mars and Saturn in pre-dawn hours. Mars rises first at 2:32 AM, about 43 degrees below Jupiter. Mars is steadily becoming brighter and higher; it is now 0.4 magnitude, 8 arc-seconds in size and 9 degrees high. Saturn rising at 2:40 AM, 3 degrees from Mars, brightens and climbs at a slower rate than Mars. It is at 0.5 magnitude and also 19 degrees high. Mars, at 8 arc-seconds, is still too small for amateur telescopes to reveal details. Saturn, on the other hand, is twice as large and should reveal its famous ring system before the sky brightens.

By twilight’s end, the constellation Gemini is high in the South. Gemini is an ancient constellation. The constellation was recognized as “Twins” by many cultures. Castor and Pollux, in Greek legends, were the sons of a mortal, Leda, and Zeus. They crewed and protected the legendary ship Argo on its quest for the Golden Fleece. Ancient sailors prayed to them for a safe voyage. The phrase “By Jiminy” harks back to an ancient oath. Greek traditions portray Castor as a horseman, while Pollux was a boxer. The stars, four degrees apart, are approximately equally bright; Castor is slightly dimmer. In 1803, Sir William Herschel declared Castor to be a binary – two stars orbiting each other. This was the first binary star to be discovered.

Skywatch Line for Friday, March 23 through Sunday, March 25, 2018

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, March 23 through Sunday, March 25, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, the Sun rises at 6:54am and sets at 7:11pm; Moon sets at 12:54am and rises at 10:54am. The first quarter Moon occurs on Saturday at11:35am. On Friday, the Moon joins the lineup of Betelgeuse, the Taurus horntips, and Capella. The Moon resides inside the Winter Circle on Friday and Saturday evening. The large Winter Circle star configuration of six 1st-magnitude stars of six constellations consists of Capella, the brightest star in constellation Auriga, Pollux, the brightest star in constellation Gemini, Procyon, the brightest star in constellation Canis Minor, Sirius, the brightest star in constellation Canis Major, Rigel, the brightest star in constellation Orion, and Aldebaran, the brightest star in constellation Taurus. Watch the Moon shining high above Orion, in the feet of Gemini below Castor and Pollux on Saturday evening. Start from the Winter Triangle stars, Sirius, Procyon, and Betelgeuse tolocate the larger Winter Circle pattern.

In spring, the Moon cruises along the northernmost reaches of the ecliptic. This weekend is a good time for exploring some of the most unusual regions of the first-quarter Moon. Aim your scope at the stretch of lunar terrain lying in between Mare Vaporum, Mare Serenitatis, and Mare Tranquillitatis. This area is best viewed on Friday and Saturday evenings when the terminator is nearby. Impressive gouges dominate this region. Another interesting lunar feature comes into view on Saturday evening, right around 1st Quarter phase. Located in the Mare Nubium just before the start of the Lunar Highlands sits a feature known as the Lunar Straight Wall. 120 kilometers long and about 400 meters high, this scarp is hard to miss as a long shadow slice along the surface of the Moon. Visible in even small telescopes at moderate magnification, the Lunar Straight Wall is generally visible within 24 hours of 1st Quarter. The Lunar Straight Wall was first noted by Christiaan Huygens in the 17th century. He described it as “sword-like”. Refer to Astronomy magazines and websites for Moon maps and observing guides.

Venus gains more altitude each day. The magnitude –3.9 “evening star” now sets 1½ hour after the Sun. Mercury is wrapping up its apparition of the year. Therefore, Mercury is setting earlier and losing brightness each night.

Jupiter, gleaming at magnitude –2.3, climbs to the meridian a little bit after 4:30am. Mars rises around 3:00am. Mars, at magnitude 0.5 is still quite small, but by the end of April it might be worth inspecting by a telescope. Last to rise is Saturn in the southeast horizon, roughly 30 minutes after Mars. Saturn shines at magnitude 0.5 and climbs to 20 degreesaltitude, as morning twilight gets brighter.

Sunday marks the 95th. Birthday of the American Astronomer, Kenneth L. Franklin. In 1955, Franklin co-discovered that planet Jupiter emits radio waves. Astronomers at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, Bernard F. Burke and Kenneth Franklin, were scanning the sky for radio waves from galaxies. By chance, they found a radio signal that resembled short bursts of static, similar to interference by lightning on home radios. The signals were periodic, four minutes earlier each day. After weeks of study, they pinpointed Jupiter as the source. This was the first time to detect radio sounds from a planet in our solar system.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 21st, and Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 21st, and Thursday, March 22nd, written by Louis Suarato.

The 15% illuminated, waxing crescent Moon remains in the sky until 10:34 p.m. Wednesday. Look to the Moon’s upper left for Taurus’ brightest star, Aldebaran, and to the Moon’s upper right for the Pleiades star cluster. Thursday night, the Moon and Aldebaran will be separated by less than 1 degree. Aldebaran is the 14th brightest star in the nighttime sky, shining at magnitude 0.85. This red giant star is about 40 times the size of the Sun, and 350 times as luminous. Aldebaran is 65 light-years away and estimated to be 6.6 billion years old. In 1782, William Herschel discovered a faint, 11th magnitude companion star of Aldebaran. A companion to Herschel’s discovery was seen by S.W. Burnham in 1888. Burnham’s discovery follows the same proper motion as Aldebaran, but Herschel’s does not. Aldebaran, also known as Alpha Tauri, lies close to the ecliptic, and is often occulted by the Moon, When the Moon travels through Taurus, it can be as far as 5 degrees north or south of the ecliptic. When it is 5 degrees north of the of the ecliptic, the Moon will occult the stars of the Pleiades. When the Moon is 5 degrees to the south of the ecliptic, it will occult Aldebaran. NASA’s spacecraft Pioneer 10, whose last signal was received on January 22, 2003, is headed toward Aldebaran. Pioneer 10 should reach the Aldebaran star system in about 2 million years.

Look for Venus and Mercury 5 degrees apart low in the west after sunset. Mercury becomes stationary at 1 p.m. Thursday, and heads back toward the Sun in the coming days, as Virgo climbs higher in the sky. Jupiter rises at 11:28 p.m. in the constellation Libra. Io is eclipsed by Jupiter beginning at 1:18 a.m. Thursday. Io will reappear at 4:33 a.m., joining Ganymede and Callisto on the same side of the planet. Mars rises in Sagittarius at 2:43 a.m., followed by Saturn 20 minutes later. The red and ringed planets will be within 1.5 degrees on March 31st.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, March 19th and 20th, 2018

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, March 19th and 20th.

The Sun sets at 7:06 PM; night falls at 8:41. Dawn begins at 5:23 AM and ends with sunrise at 6:58.

The two-day-old Moon dominates Monday’s evening sky. It glows at minus 4th magnitude and appears about 7 percent illuminated in Pisces; it sets at 9:29 PM. Tuesday’s Moon, in Cetus, is brighter, appears twice as lit and sets at 10:37 PM.

Venus is about the same brightness at Monday’s Moon, and also resides in Pisces. In contrast to the Moon, it is about 96 percent illuminated and about 10 degrees above the western horizon. Mercury, another inhabitant of Pisces, lies about 4 degrees East of Venus, which serves as a guide. Mercury is dimmer at 0.7th magnitude and about 16 percent illuminated. Venus sets at 8:30 PM, Mercury at 8:38. Uranus, the fourth visitor in Pisces, lies about 5 degrees East of the Moon, and shines with 6th magnitude. Monday’s Moon also acts as a guide to Uranus. Uranus sets at 9:25 PM.

The variable star Algol dims on schedule Monday for two hours centered at 9:39 PM. Algol, also named Beta Persei, is the brightest star in the short leg of the constellation Perseus; it dims from 2nd magnitude to 3rd every 2.9 days.

Dwarf Planet 1Ceres lies in Cancer, glows with 8th magnitude and is 0.6 arc-seconds in size. Tuesday night, Ceres lies stationary near the star 46 Cancri, one degree away. Tonight’s challenge object will begin to circle back, what astronomers call retrograde motion. Ceres sets at 6:15 AM.

Jupiter rises as the brightest object in Libra at 11:32 PM. By Midnight, the giant planet is about 4 degrees above the eastern horizon and blazes at minus 2nd magnitude. The Great Red Spot (a giant storm) is telescopically visible at 2:04 AM on Wednesday. Also, on Wednesday, at 3:30 AM, the moon Ganymede is eclipsed by the giant planet, and reappears at 5:17 AM. At 4:09 AM, the moon IO’s shadow begins to cross Jupiter, followed by IO itself at 5:09.

Mars joins the scene at 2:42 AM in Sagittarius. The Red Planet shines at 0.5 magnitude and appears about 89 percent lit. Saturn, also in Sagittarius, is equally bright, but larger, rising at 3:06 AM. It appears above the Teapot’s cap, near the star clusters M22 and M28.

Spring arrives at 12:15 Tuesday afternoon. Astronomers define the Equinox as that point where the ecliptic (the Sun’s path across the sky) and the celestial equator (the projection of Earth’s equator onto the sky) cross with the Sun climbing higher on the ecliptic. This definition and event was known to virtually all civilizations, whether or not they fully understood it. Throughout the northern hemisphere, markers were aligned with the Sun to determine the first day of spring. Rites celebrated the event and farmers could start planting.

At the time of the Babylonians, Aries housed the Spring Equinox (now in Pisces); this was called “The First Point of Aries.” It began the Babylonian, Assyrian and Hebrew calendars.

Aries is prominent in Greek mythology. Phrixos and Helle were threatened by their stepmother. Their deceased mother appeared with a golden fleeced ram and urged her sons to ride its back to escape. They did; however, Helle fell off Aries into the sea. (The Hellespont is named after him.) Phrixos safely made the crossing and landed in Kolchis, on the Black Sea. He sacrificed the ram to Zeus in thanksgiving and hung its fleece on a tree. This is the Golden Fleece of the Jason and the Argonauts sag

Skywatch Line for Friday, March 16 through Sunday, March 18, 2018

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, March 16 through Sunday, March 18, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, the Sun rises at 7:06am and sets at 7:03pm; the tiny crescent Moon rises at 6:55am and sets at 6:15pm. The New Moon occurs on Saturday at 9:12am. New moon rises when the Sun rises. It sets when the Sun sets and crosses the sky with the Sun during the day. Its fully illuminated face, or dayside, is turned entirely away from us. Therefore, the new Moon is not seen on the day it occurs, except when there is a total solar eclipse.

On Sunday evening, the razor-thin crescent Moon sits a little less than 4 degrees to the left of bright planet Venus, low in the west during twilight. Venus should be obvious, but you may need binoculars to locate the lunar crescent. The razor-thin crescent Moon, Venus, and Mercury will be within 7 degrees north on Sunday evening. Mercury and Venus will be up, briefly, after sunset. Around the spring equinox the ecliptic stands nearly straight up with respect to the western horizon after sunset. This makes Venus and Mercury appear higher in the sky after sunset than they would otherwise, as seen from the Northern Hemisphere. Mercury shines at magnitude –0.4 and sets roughly 90 minutes after the Sun. The now “evening star” Venus shines at magnitude –3.9. Venus is still poorly positioned, sitting only about 12 degrees above the west horizon at sunset.

Jupiter, glowing at magnitude –2.3, rises at around 12:15am and is past the meridian by the start of morning twilight. Watch Mars and Saturn before dawn. Both planets reside in northern Sagittarius, low in the southeast. The pair is closely matched in brightness, with Saturn at magnitude 0.5 and Mars just a touch fainter at magnitude 0.6. Saturn will be located 1.5 degrees north of the elliptical globular cluster M22 in the constellation Sagittarius this week. M22 is one of the brightest globular that is visible in the night sky located near the Galactic Bulge region. Use a telescope to view Saturn’s rings and observe M22. Mars is unlikely to appear as more than a small, fuzzy disk in a telescope at this time.

The Milky Way rotates out of view with the arrival of spring. We are now looking out at right angle to our Galactic plane into deep space and lose many of our Galaxy’s local deep-sky objects. They are now replaced by less bright, but still impressive galaxies that lie beyond the Milky Way. The constellation of Leo, the Lion is easily identified by its distinctive Sickle asterism, which marks the lion’s head and foreleg. Close to Leo’s forward-pointing rear leg is the M96 group of galaxies. These are visible though a small telescope as faint, mostly elliptical smudges. A more impressive group lies close to Leo’s eastern back leg. Known as Leo’s Triplet. This group consists of M65, M66, and NGC 3628. The galaxies are relatively bright and interesting because they have different shapes. The Leo Triplet is a group of interacting spiral galaxies. The tree large spiral galaxies can be seen in a single field of view and are well viewed in small telescope. The galaxies disks are tilted at different angles. NGC 3628 appears edge-on, while M65 and M66 are inclined enough to reveal their spiral arms.

Friday marks the birthday of Caroline Lucretia Herschel. Born on March16 1750,
the German-born British astronomer was the sister of Sir William Herschel and assisted in his astronomical researches making calculations associated with his studies. In her own telescope observations, she found three nebulae in 1783 and eight comets between 1786 and 1797. In 1787, King George III gave Caroline a salary of 50 pounds per year as an assistant to William. She was the first woman, at that time, to receive a salary for services to science. In 1797, she published the Index to Flamsteed’s Observations of the Fixed Stars with a list of errata and a list of more than 560 stars that had not been included.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 14th, and Thursday, March 15th, 2018

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 14th, and Thursday, March 15th, written by Louis Suarato.

The thin crescent Moon sets hours before the Sun, leaving the night darker for observing. Start out by look for Mercury and Venus, about 4 degrees apart, low in the west after sunset. Venus is 94% illuminated, and shines at -3.86 magnitude. Mercury reaches its greatest eastern elongation at 18 degrees from the Sun Thursday. Around astronomical twilight, about 8:30 p.m., look over the western horizon for a conical shaped glow that tilts southward. This glow is known as the zodiacal light. The zodiacal light, or false dusk, is the reflection of sunlight off the interplanetary dust that surrounds the Sun. this dust is believed to have originated from the time of planetary formation 4,5 billion years ago. Jupiter rises at midnight in the constellation Libra. At 5:50 Thursday morning, use your telescope to view Jupiter high over the south-southwest horizon and watch Europa disappear behind the planet. Mars, now 88% illuminated, rises in Sagittarius, followed by Saturn 37 minutes later. The waning crescent Moon rises at 6:25 a,m,, 4% illuminated.

A deep-sky object to target on these dark nights is M1, the Crab Nebula. The Crab Nebula is the result of a supernova that was seen from Earth in 1054 A.D. when it was visible in the daytime sky for about a month. The Crab Nebula is about 6 light-years across, and shines at magnitude 8.40. M1 is approximately 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Taurus. At 9 p.m. you’ll find the Crab Nebular about 60 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon, above, and between the stars Betelgeuse in Orion, and Aldebaran, in Taurus.

Thursday night, the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers invite you to join them for their monthly meeting to be held at 7:30 p.m. at miSci in Schenectady. Club president Ted Close will be giving a presentation entitled “Eyeing the Sun”, and will be discussing the effects on the eye when looking at the Sun.