Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, March 27th and 28th, 2017

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, March 27th and 28th.

The Sun sets at 7:16 PM; night falls at 8:52. Dawn breaks at 5:07 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:44.

As the sky darkens, the Moon will be noticeably absent. It turns New at 10:57 PM Monday, which means that it rises and sets with the Sun. Tuesday, it appears low on the western sky, about 3 degrees above the horizon and only one percent illuminated; it sets at 8:05 PM.

Three planets are visible in the West. Uranus, in Pisces, is also low, 8 degrees high, shining a 6th magnitude and setting at 8:36 PM. Mercury, also in Pisces, is the brightest of the three, and in the middle of the group. Mercury shines at zero magnitude, appears about 60 percent lit, 11 degrees high and a tiny 7 arc-seconds in size. Mars appears in Aries about 17 degrees above Mercury, dimmer at first magnitude and a miniscule 4 arc-seconds in size. Mercury sets at 8:51 PM, Mars at 10:19 PM.

Asteroid 4Vesta inhabits Gemini at nightfall. It is tonight’s challenge object, since it is at seventh magnitude, 71 degrees high, and a miniature 0.3 arc-seconds in size. It lies less than 1 degree below the star Upsilon. Vesta is almost exactly 2 astronomical units away from Earth – twice the distance between the Earth and Sun. It is best observed at 8 PM and sets at 4 AM.

Jupiter, in Virgo, is already 7 degrees up by twilight’s end and is best observed at 1:46 AM. Monday night sees its moon Ganymede be eclipsed at 8:39 PM and reappear at 11:56; Io also reappears from behind Jupiter at 9:14 PM. The Great Red Spot is also visible at 12:39 AM on Wednesday. Note that Jupiter creeps away from the bright star Spica the rest of this month.

Saturn, in Sagittarius, rises at 1:47 AM. The Ringed Planet shines at zero magnitude and is about 17 arc-seconds in size. By 5 AM, Saturn is high enough for both telescope and binocular observers to appreciate its glorious ring system. Both Jupiter and Saturn are visible during Civil Dawn.

With Red Planet Mars in the significant constellation of Aries, let’s consider Aries. The constellation is usually listed as first in the Zodiac. At the time of the Babylonians, Aries housed the Spring Equinox. It also was the constellation that began the Babylonian, Assyrian and Jewish calendars.

Aries, the Ram, is prominent in Greek mythology. Phrixos and Helle were threatened by their stepmother. Their deceased mother appeared with a golden fleeced ram, and urged her sons to ride its back and escape. They did; however, Helle fell off the ram into the sea. The Hellespont is named after him. Phrixos safely made the crossing and landed in Kolchis, on the Black Sea. He sacrificed the ram to Zeus in thanksgiving and hung its fleece on a tree. This is the Golden Fleece of the Jason and Argonaut saga.

Bookmark the permalink.