Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, March 14th and 15th, 2016

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, March 14th and 15th.

Now that Daylight Saving Time is in effect, the Sun sets at 7:01 PM; night falls at 8:35. Dawn breaks at 5:32 AM and ends with sunrise at 7:06.

The darkening sky reveals one planet and the Moon. The Moon, in Taurus, rose earlier, and, by Civil Dusk, is high in the sky. Monday shows it about 40 percent illuminated; Tuesday finds it in Orion at First Quarter, when it is at its highest at 7:15 PM. The Moon sets around 2 AM.

Jupiter rose at 6:15 PM, and is located near Leo’s hind foot. While binoculars provide views of Jupiter and its four Galilean moons, telescope users can see the Great Red Spot (a giant storm) at 12:49 AM and 8:40 PM on Tuesday. Sky watchers on Monday night can see the moon Europa begin to cross Jupiter’s face, followed by its shadow at 9:46. At 10:12 PM, Io, another moon, begins its trek across Jupiter, followed by its shadow at 10:20. This double shadow transit, as this event is called, is one of several that takes place this month. By 12:37 AM on Tuesday, both moons and their shadows leave Jupiter’s surface. Jupiter remains up all night.

Mars, in Scorpius, rises about 12:41 AM. The Red Planet now shines at minus 0.1 magnitude and appears about 91 percent illuminated. Mars is located near the Scorpion’s head, about eight degrees from the bright star Antares. Note their color. Both Mars and Antares appear red in our telescopes, but for different reasons. Mars appears red because that is the color of its soil. Antares is red due to its old age. More about Antares in a minute.

Saturn rises about an hour after Mars. It inhabits the dim constellation Ophiuchus, and lies about twelve degrees East of Mars. It is slightly dimmer than Mars. Can you tell the difference? Its cream color stands out amid the dim stars. The rings are at maximum tilt for our enjoyment. Telescopes are preferred instruments to see the rings and a few of Saturn’s 62 satellites.

Venus rises at 6:25 AM and is very low on the horizon. Even though it blazes at minus 3.9 magnitude, Venus requires an unobstructed eastern horizon to find it.

About Midnight, the constellation Scorpius lies due South. Its brightest star, the Lucida, is Antares. The Greek name means “Rival of Ares,” the Greek version of the Roman god Mars. Antares is one of the brightest stars in the northern sky. It is one of only two bright supergiant stars, the other being Betelgeuse. Antares is truly a giant star. Its diameter is 600 million miles. Antares lies about 600 light years away; only Betelgeuse is closer. This star is nearing the end of its life. It is slightly variable, and will, one day, blow itself up as a supernova. In 1970, Antares became the first star, proven to emit radio waves.

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers hold their monthly meeting on Thursday, March 17th at 7:30 PM at miSci.

This month, club member Sam Salem talks about how human perception changed our view of planetary motions.

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