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.

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