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.

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