Skywatch Line for Friday, March 6, through Sunday, March 8, 2020

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, March 6, through Sunday, March 8, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 6:22am and sets at 5:52pm, the waxing gibbous Moon rises at 2:07pm and sets at 4:36am. On Saturday, Regulus, in constellation Leo shines below the nearly full Moon after dark. Daylight saving time begins at 2am on Sunday. Set your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed Saturday night.

In the southeastern sky after dusk on Friday evening, the bright Moon will be positioned less than two finger widths to the lower left of the large open star cluster Beehive, or Messier 44, in the constellation of Cancer, the Crab. The Moon passes close to, or through, this cluster frequently because the Beehive is located only a finger’s width north of the ecliptic. To see the cluster’s stars, try placing the bright Moon just outside the field of view of your binoculars. Later at night, the Moon will move farther away from the cluster and the rotation of the sky will raise the Moon to the cluster’s upper left.

Venus, at magnitude –4.3. gleams in the western sky after sunset. The brilliant planet stands out just a half-hour after sundown, nearly 40 degrees above the horizon. Venus is still 25 degrees high once darkness fully settles in. Venus remains on display until after 9:30pm. A telescope reveals the planet’s disk and appears 60 percent lit.

Venus serves as a guide to the solar system’s seventh planet, Uranus, on Saturday night and Sunday night. you’ll need binoculars or a telescope to spot the magnitude 5.9 Uranus. Once the sky grows dark, center Venus in the field of view and then search for Uranus almost 2 degrees to its southeast. Through a telescope, Uranus will show a 3.4” diameter disk and conspicuous blue-green color. For several nights, both planets will appear together in the field of view of binoculars, although Uranus is about a thousand times fainter than Venus.

Mars, at magnitude +1.1, glows in the southeast before and during early dawn, above the handle of the Sagittarius Teapot. Find it upper right of Jupiter. Mars is slowly creeping toward Jupiter by about half a degree per day. Jupiter, at magnitude –2.0, lies in constellation Sagittarius and shines much brighter and whiter to the lower left of Mars. They’re closing in on each other. Mars is 7 degrees from Jupiter on Saturday morning. Saturn, at magnitude +0.7, is low in early dawn, 8 degrees lower left of Jupiter.

This weekend, the orbital motion of comet C/2017 T2 (PanSTARRS) will take it past the Heart Nebula ,or IC 1805. The comet will be the easier of the two objects to observe in backyard telescopes. Find it a few finger widths above the sideways, W-shaped constellation of Cassiopeia in the northwestern evening sky, approximately 2.5 degrees east of Cassiopeia’s topmost star, medium-bright Segin, also known as Epsilon Cass. This comet is predicted to brighten by May. For now, it will appear as a small, greenish, fuzzy patch.

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