Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 16th and Thursday March 17th

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 16th and Thursday March 17th written by Louis Suarato

During these last weeks of winter, the constellation Orion is high above the southwestern sky after sunset. Follow Orion’s belt south to Sirius, the brightest star in our sky, and west to Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus. Follow Orion’s belt beyond Aldebaran to find the Pleiades star cluster. At the distance of 8.6 light-years, Sirius is one of the closest stars to our Sun. A blue white star, Sirius sometimes appears to emit a rainbow of colors, as its light passes through Earth’s atmosphere. Sirius is a binary star, consisting of a smallcompanion, Sirius B, also known as the Pup. Sirius B can only be seen with the power of a telescope. Look about 4 degrees below Sirius for the open cluster M41. Also known as NGC 2287, this open cluster was discover by Giovanni Batista Hodierna before 1654. M41 contains about 100 stars and forms a triangle with the star Nu Canis Majoris and Sirius, and all three can be seen in the same field of view with binoculars. This cluster of stars covers a field as large as the Full Moon. 

Jupiter rises after 6 p.m. Wednesday and will be about 20 degrees over the eastern horizon after sunset. Around 8:30 p.m., you’ll notice a bright star rising in the east-northeast. That star is Arcturus, the brightest in the constellation Bootes. Arcturus is the second brightest star in our night sky, and is known as a harbinger of Spring, as it begins its rise at the time of the vernal equinox. Mars rises about 30 minutes after midnight at the head of Scopius, followed by Saturn an hour later. The two planets form a triangle with Antares, Scorpius’ brightest star. Look before dusk when the three are high in the south. The 71% illuminated, waxing gibbous Moon rises at 1:41 p.m. Thursday afternoon. As darkness falls, you’ll discover the Moon is between the bright stars Pollux in Gemini, above, and Procyon, below. Procyon is the brightest star in Canis Minor. 

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers invite you to join them at miSci in Schenectady for their monthly meeting Thursday, March 17th at 7:30 pm. This month, our speaker is club member Sam Salem, on the recent reports of a possible large planet beyond the orbit of Pluto. This talk gives an overview of how human perception of celestial geometry evolved, from Ptolemy, to Kepler, to Einstein, to accommodate new facts.

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