Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, March 27 and 28, 2024, written by Alan French

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday and Thursday, March 27 and 28, 2024, written by Alan French.

The Sun rises at 6:45 A.M. on Wednesday and sets at 7:16 P.M. On Thursday it rises at 6:43 and sets at 7:17. This Thursday has 20 ½ minutes more daylight than last Thursday. By the end of March, we will have gained just over an hour and a half of daylight for the month.

The Moon was full on Monday and is now moving toward last quarter. On Wednesday night the waning gibbous Moon rises in the east southeast at 9:57 P.M. and appears 93% full. It will be due south and 29 degrees above the horizon at 3:03 A.M. Thursday morning and its visible face will be 92% illuminated. If you are up around 6:00 A.M. Thursday look for a pretty gibbous Moon toward the southwest, 17 degrees high. The Moon sets at 8:00 A.M.

On Thursday night the Moon, 86% in sunlight, rises at 11:04 P.M. toward the southeast. It will be due south at 3:49 A.M. Friday. If you are up at 6:00 A.M. Friday look for the Moon toward the southwest. It will set at 8:26 A.M.

Jupiter continues in the wester sky as darkness falls. At 8:30 P.M. Jupiter will be 27 degrees above the western horizon.

Mercury is still a comfortable 9 degrees above the horizon at 8:00 P.M. but has faded to magnitude +0.5 and will probably require binoculars spot against the twilight glow. (Jupiter will provide an easy target to carefully focus your binoculars on.) Mercury is 21 degrees to the lower right of Jupiter. If you imagine Jupiter as the center of a clock, Mercury is at about the 5 o’clock position. The situation will be almost the same Thursday evening at 8:00 P.M., except Mercury will have faded slightly, to magnitude +0.7. A week from Thursday Mercury will be only 4 ½ degrees high and will have faded to magnitude +2.8, so time is running out to catch Mercury through binoculars in the western evening sky.

There is a nice pass of the International Space Station (ISS) visible from this region on Thursday night. It goes high in the sky, the Sun is well below the horizon, so the skies are dark, and the ISS moves into the Earth’s shadow and fades from view when 61 degrees above the horizon.

Look for the ISS coming up from the west northwestern horizon at 9:06 P.M. If you are looking west, the ISS will pass north (right) of Jupiter between 9:07 and 9:08 and pass above Jupiter just before 9:09. Soon after 9:09 it will pass between Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, and Capella, the luminary of Auriga. Just before 9:10 the space station will move through Gemini, the Twins, high in the southwest. Right after passing through the Twins, it will move into the Earth’s shadow and fade from view.