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What's Up...
Some observing hilights
to look forward to...

The following tips on current and upcoming astronomical events
have been gathered from magazines and other sources by Dave Gamble
with the objective of giving OC RASC members a heads-up on
special personal
astro-experiences to look forward to.

Thurs. March 1 – This is Full Moon night with our neighbour rising as evening begins. Tonight it will be about two of its widths above Regulus in Leo. It is interesting to reflect that this bright star is beaming at us from 79 light years away, and at home it is actually a complex multiple star system involving at least four stars.

Sat. March 3 –  One of the closest planet conjunctions of the year will arrive early this evening as fleet Mercury cruises past neighbouring Venus, welcoming it into the twilight sky early in its performance as our evening star. The two planets will be only two moon’s widths apart low in the western twilight sky. Binoculars or a telescope will add drama to the sight.

Mon. March 5 – Mercury and Venus are still close together low in the southwest sky after dusk. Demonstrating planetary movement, the two are now three moon widths apart instead of two widths just two days previous.

Tues. March 6 - A reminder that a window to observe the Zodiacal light will continue for the next couple of weeks. Under dark sky conditions, look for an arch of faint, hazy light stretching up from the western horizon. You will be looking at light being scattered by the leftover dust in the Sun's equatorial plane.

Wed. March 7 – The Moon has moved along in the sky and tonight it will pass less than three finger widths from brilliant Jupiter.

Fri. March 9 – This is Last Quarter Moon night which announces the beginning the next dark moon period. Dark sky viewing, imaging and sketching can be enjoyed until the Moon rises after midnight, a window that will expand later each night until the New Moon on the 17th.

Sat. March 10 - A reminder that Daylight Saving Time begins tomorrow so clocks, watches and microwave ovens should be 'sprung ahead' one hour before you retire for the night.

Thurs. March 15 – Though it is still low in the western sky after twilight, this is as good as it will get this year for observing Mercury. Tonight the inner planet will reach its greatest eastern elongation from the Sun. Bright Venus will look on from below.

Sat. Sun. March 17/18  – Since Saturday will be New Moon night, this weekend will be the primary window for 2018 Messier Marathon events. With the Moon out of the way, and if the weatherman cooperates, a dark sky will be available to observers to attempt to seek out as many of Charles Messier’s list of 110 celestial objects as possible. A gap in the Messiers location in the sky coincides with this time of the year, allowing observers to glimpse the westernmost objects as night falls and the easternmost before dawn after a busy and challenging all-right session.

Sat. March 17 – For those not hunting Messiers, Mercury and Venus will appear quite close together low in the southwest sky after dusk.

Sun. March 18 – Another celestial hunt will be available at dusk tonight. It will be a chance to view a very young crescent Moon low in the southwest sky as evening begins. The planets Mercury and Venus will be of help since they will be located less than three finger widths above he fingernail paring crescent. Binoculars will be needed.

Mon. March 19 – Climbing higher into the evening sky, the thin crescent Moon will pass below the Ice Giant Uranus this evening. Look for the tiny greenish planet about three finger widths north of the crescent with binoculars or a telescope.

Tues. March 20 - This is a big day since it marks the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere. The actual moment of the vernal equinox will occur at 9.15am.

Thurs. March 22 – For those interested in an interesting telescopic challenge, the 31% lit waxing crescent Moon will occult Aldebaran this afternoon a few seconds after 2.57pm. The bright magnitude -2 star will make its reappearance at 3.31pm on the bright limb of the Moon.

Thurs. March 22 – Following the occultation, the waxing crescent Moon will remain in the vicinity of Aldebaran this evening. At home this orange giant star is 44 times the diameter of our Sun.

Sat. March 24 – This is First Quarter Moon night with the romantic half lit sphere poised high in the spring evening sky. If it looks a bit larger than usual, this is because our neighbour will reach perigee, the closest point in its orbit to the Earth, on Friday.

Wed. March 28 – Tonight brilliant Venus will pass very close to greenish Uranus low in the western sky. Binoculars will help, but a telescope will help split the two planets and provide a dramatic picture.

Wed. March 28 – The restless waxing gibbous Moon will pay another spring call on Regulus tonight. Alpha Leonis appears as the bright dot of Leo’s distinctive reversed question mark asterism.

Sat. March 31 – This is Full Moon night, the second one this month which makes it a ‘Blue Moon’. This is reminiscent of January’s two Full Moons, but minus an eclipse.