Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 22nd, and Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 22nd, and Thursday, March 23rd, written by Louis Suarato.

The 31% illuminated, waning crescent Moon sets at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the constellation Sagittarius. The Moon rises again as a 25% illuminated crescent at 4:15 a.m. Thursday in Capricornus. Venus may be too close to the Sun to view after sunset, but you still may be able to find our closest planetary neighbor in daylight using binoculars. Be careful not to look too close to the Sun. Look for Mercury around 7:30 p.m. about 10 degrees above the western horizon. Mars shines about 20 degrees above Mercury between the constellations Cetus and Aries. Jupiter rises at 8:33 p.m. in Virgo. Jupiter’s moon Europa begins it shadow transit at 1:23 a.m. Thursday, and at 2:11 a.m., Europa transits the planet. Europa’s shadow transit ends at 3:52 a.m., and 40 minutes later, Europa exits the face of our solar system’s largest planet. Saturn rises at 2:09 a.m. in Sagittarius.

There’s a 7th magnitude comet approaching the Big Dipper. The comet, 41P/Tuttle-Giocobini-Kresak, is traveling toward the pointer stars, or outermost stars, of the Big Dipper’s bowl. Wednesday and Thursday nights, look 5 to 7 degrees above the star Merak, which is the lower, outermost star of the Big Dipper’s bowl. Through binoculars, Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak will look like a green, fuzzy ball. This comet is approaching its closest pass to Earth, and at the end of the month will be 13.2 million miles away, the closest it’s been in a century. The comet may also reach 6th magnitude by the end of the month. Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak was first discovered by Horace Parnell Tuttle on May 3, 1858. It was rediscovered by Michael Giacobini in 1907, and by LuborKresak in 1951. Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak is a member of the Jupiter family of comets and its orbital period is estimated to be between 5.8 and 7.5 years.

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