Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 2nd and Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 2nd and Thursday, March 3rd written by Louis Suarato

You don’t have to stay up late to see some wonderful objects in this week’s night sky. With the waning crescent Moon below the horizon until 2:14 a.m. Thursday, you’ll have darker skies to find these binocular and telescopic targets. Jupiter rises conveniently at 6:11 p.m. Thursday evening. You may want to wait until rises higher to observe it though, when the giant planet rises above the atmospheric turbulence. A small telescope will reveal Jupiter’s largest moons, known as the Galilean Moons. At around 8 p.m., Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, will be close to Io on one side, with Callisto further away. Europa will be alone on the other side.

Beyond Jupiter, further along the ecliptic, is the constellation Leo’s brightest star, Regulus. Beyond Regulus, before you reach Castor and Pollux in Gemini, in Cancer is M44, or the Beehive Cluster. This beautiful binocular target is one of the nearest open clusters in our solar system. In 1609, Galileo became the first to target M44 with a telescope. Galileo was able to resolve 40 stars through his 8 power telescope. Charles Messier added the Beehive Cluster to his catalog in 1769. The constellation Orion should be easy to see to the west of Gemini, even in light polluted skies. Just below the star to the left in Orion’s Belt, is the Great Orion Nebula, or M42. M42 is one of the brightest nebulae in the night sky. It is visible to the naked eye, but your exploration of the object improves as you view it through binoculars, then through a telescope. The Great Orion Nebula is the object of intense study of how star systems are formed. Evidence of this is the young open cluster at the center known as the Trapezium. Depending on the power of your telescope, and the quality of the seeing, you may be able to resolve 4 to 6 stars at the center of the nebula.

When Luna does make an appearance in the early morning hours, it will rise as a 35%, illuminated, waning gibbous Moon. If you look at the shadowed side of the Moon with binoculars, you’ll notice the stars of Open Cluster M23 nearby. Further along the ecliptic will be Saturn, then Mars.

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