Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 1st, and Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 1st, and Thursday, March 2nd, written by Louis Suarato.

The old adage states that “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” Most use that idiom to refer to the weather, but it’s also true astronomically. Wednesday evening, look above the eastern horizon to see the constellation Leo “The Lion”. Leo is the 12th largest constellation, and is most prominent from February through May. Leo’s brightest star is Regulus, which can be found to the lower right of the lion’s neck and head, an asterism known as the sickle. Regulus, or Alpha Leonis, located79 light-years from the Sun, is the closest of the brightest stars in our sky. Regulus is a multiple star system of four stars, comprised of two pairs. One pair consists of Regulus A, a blue-white star, and its companion star. Regulus A is about 3.5 times the mass of our Sun, with a rotation period of 15.9 hours. This rapid rotation causes the star to have an oblate shape. The Regulus system forms the 21st brightest star in our sky at magnitude +1.35.

The 14% illuminated, waxing crescent Moon can be seen in the constellation Pisces, 5 degrees to the left of Mars. Binoculars will help you find Uranus, 2 degrees below Mars. Venus shines brightly to the lower right of the two planets and crescent Moon. Thursday, the Moon passes within a degree of the dwarf planet Ceres. You will need binoculars or a small telescope to see 9.04 magnitude Ceres to the right of the crescent Moon. Jupiter risesat 9:06 p.m. in Virgo. As Jupiter climbs the sky, a telescopic view will show its moon Europa, and its shadow transiting the planet. Europa’s shadow transit ends at 7:07 p.m., and Europa’s transit ends at 8:39 p.m. Wednesday. Thursday night, Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, and its shadow transit the planet as it rises. Ganymede’s shadow transit ends at 8:10 p.m., and Ganymede’s transit ends at 11:02 p.m.. Saturn rises at 2:28 a.m. in Ophiuchus.

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