Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 9th and Thursday, March 10th, 2016

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 9th and Thursday, March 10th written by Louis Suarato

The 1% illuminated, waning crescent Moon will be a challenge to see as it sets an hour after the Sun on Wednesday. The crescent Moon will be easier to see when it is 5% illuminated, and higher above the horizon after sunset Thursday evening. The moonless sky offers its evening highlights early as Jupiter climbs above the eastern horizon. Jupiter reached opposition Tuesday, and shines at magnitude -2.5. As you look at Jupiter’s Galilean moons throughout the night, you’ll notice Ganymede and Io to one side and Europa and Callisto on the other side, all moving away from the planet. Thursday night, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a 200 to 400 year old storm, twice as large as planet Earth, begins its transit at 8:30. This storm, with winds peaking at 400 miles per hour, orbits the planet counter-clockwise, with a period of about six days.

Mars rises between Libra and Scorpius around midnight. Earth and Mars are moving toward each other, by 25,954,000 miles, until Mars reaches opposition on May 22nd. Saturn rises in the constellation Ophiuchus after 1 a.m. Thursday. Rising alongside Saturn, to its right, is the globular star cluster NGC 6235, also known as Mel 154. Ten degrees to the right of NGC 6235 is the globular star cluster M4. The distance between Mars and Saturn is also closing, from 18 degrees to 9 degrees throughout March. Venus joins the morning planets, rising at 5:30 Thursday.

There will be a bright International Space Station pass over our region early Thursday morning. The ISS will appear in mid-sky, between the handle of the Big Dipper and Arcturus, at 4:39 a.m., and travel toward the northeast horizon.

The Moon reaches perigee, the closest to Earth during this lunar cycle, at 2:04 a.m. Thursday, at a distance of 223,389 miles.

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