This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 8th, and Thursday, March 9th, written by Louis Suarato.
The 84% illuminated, waxing gibbous Moon rises at 1:54 p.m. Wednesday in the constellation Cancer. At nightfall, look about 8 degrees to the Moon’s upper left to see the Beehive Cluster, or M44. To the Moon’s right is the asterism known as the Winter Hexigon, comprised of the stars Rigel in Orion, Aldebaran in Taurus, Capella in Auriga, Pollux in Gemini, Procyon in CanisMinor, and Sirius in Canis Major. Over the western horizon, Venus shines brightest as a 10% illuminated crescent. Venus will set a few minutes after 8 p.m. Wednesday. Mars can be found higher along the ecliptic in the constellation Aries, with Uranus between our neighboring planets. Jupiter rises at 8:30 p.m. in Virgo. As Jupiter is rising, its moon Europa will be transiting the planet. Europa’s shadow transit ends at 9:41 p.m., and at 22:58 p.m., Europa’s transit ends. Saturn rises after 2 a.m. Thursday in Sagittarius. Saturn will remain the only planet visible in the dawn sky until it is joined by Venus later this month.
March 8th is the birth date of telescope making pioneer AlvanClark. Born in 1804, Clark, and later, his sons, became famous for making refracting telescopes for many observatories, including the 18.5 inch refractor at the Dearborn Observatory in the University of Chicago, then, the largest refracting telescope in the world. While testing one of his telescopes, on January 31, 1862, Clark discovered the companion star to Sirius. The Clark Comet Seeker telescope can be seen at the Dudley Observatory. The Comet Seeker has a four inch object glass and a focal length of three feet. It was used by the astronomer Christian Henry Peters to make the first discovery ever by a Dudley Observatory astronomer, a comet found by Peters in 1857 and named for one of the Observatory trustees, Thomas W. Olcott. Later Dudley Observatory assistant Charles Wells used it in 1882 to discover the first comet of that year.