Podcaster: Rob Webb
Title: Observing With Webb in March 2021
Organization: Physics teacher at Pequea Valley High School
Link: http://mrwebb.podbean.com ;
follow me : @MrWebbPV on Twitter and Instagram
The sunshine is coming! March may be bringing some shorter nights and daylight savings time, but the sunshine and warmth during the daytime is very much appreciated! This month Mars dominates the evening sky with Taurus and the Pleiades, and Saturn, Jupiter, and Mercury dance in the morning twilight.
Bio: Rob Webb is a physics, astronomy, and sustainability teacher at Pequea Valley High School in Pennsylvania. His passions include teaching, astronomy, astrophotography, planetariums, running, reading, and golf. A proud graduate of Dickinson College in 2005, he also obtained a Master’s Degree in Science Education from Penn State University after conducting research in regards to the current state of planetariums in Pennsylvania. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com
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Sunset – Mars
- Mars (SWW) – Look SW and two-thirds of the way up the sky after sunset to find the non-twinkling reddish-orange dot, much brighter than everything around it, in between the Pleiades and Taurus in the beginning of the month, moving up throughout. Sets around midnight in the WNW.
Throughout the night – None at the moment
Morning – Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury
- Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury (SE) – The two gas giants have just started their morning appearances after their conjunction with the Sun in January, so they will be very close to the Sun in the mornings, getting higher and rising earlier each day, but difficult to see without a clear horizon. Look SE well before sunrise (about 6:30am EST in beginning, 6:50am EDT at the end of the month). Jupiter will be the lower and brighter one, with Saturn up and to the right about 10˚. Mercury joins them as well, appearing right in between Jupiter and Saturn, but dives below and to the left of Jupiter on the 6th, getting further away and harder to spot every day.
Waning Gibbous (Mostly lit, rises later at night)
Last Quarter Moon – 3rd (Visible from midnight into the morning)
Morning Crescents (look East in the AM)
New Moon – 13th (darkest skies)
Evening Crescents (look West after Sunset)
First Quarter Moon – 21st (Visible until midnight)
Evening Gibbous (Mostly lit, after Sunset)
Full Moon – 28th (Visible all night)
8th – 10th – Close Encounter – Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury – Before sunrise in the SE on these mornings, a beautiful crescent Moon will be passing by three of our planets. On the 8th, the Moon will be about 20˚ (two fist-widths) to the right of Saturn. On the next morning (the 9th) the Moon will advance close to Saturn, only 7˚ away. All the while, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn line up from left to right, with slight upward incline. Finally, most spectacularly and most difficult to see, on the 10th the Moon will be directly below these three planets, forming a neat triangle mimicking Capricornus. Definitely worth a shot to see, but make sure your horizon is clear.
14th – Daylight Savings Time Begins at 2am
18th – 19th – Close Encounter – Moon, Mars, Pleiades, Taurus – Get out there between sunset and midnight to find the crescent Moon in the West with red, ruddy Mars close and bright just 4˚ above it. On the 18th, make sure to notice the Pleiades to the right and Taurus to the left, making a wonderful sight. Even better, on the 19th watch the Moon pass very close to Mars, with the Pleiades and Taurus still nearby.
20th – Spring Equinox – Astronomically the first day of Spring, even though meteorologically Spring starts in the beginning of March. Here’s some more info.
Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.
Orion & his winter companions –By 7pm, Orion is about as high as it will get for the night about halfway up the southern sky, tempting us to tour the winter constellations. Begin by finding Orion by looking for three stars in almost a straight line and close to each other, Orion’s Belt, which is surrounded by a bigger, vertical, almost rectangle of stars. Orion will be our guidepost for the other winter constellations. Start at the left belt star and draw a straight line connecting them, then continue that line far past the last belt star about 20˚ or two fist-widths held at arm’s length. There you’ll find the V constellation Taurus, with bright red Aldebaran at the top left of the V. Taurus is part of a big cluster of stars known as the Hyades. Remember that line you just made? Follow it just 10˚ further (one fist-width) and you’ll find a mini-mini-dipper of stars call the Pleiades, which is another open cluster of stars within our Milky Way Galaxy. Let’s go back to the belt, but draw the connecting line from right to left, and continue about 20˚ past the belt, where you’ll find the brightest star in the sky, Sirius. Perhaps you can also see the constellation Canis Major, known as the big dog. We’ll stop there for this month, and pick up next month with Gemini, Auriga, and Canis Minor.
Auriga, Gemini – Look almost straight up, and you’ll find a pentagon shaped constellation which is the Charioteer Auriga, with its brightest star Capella. Gemini, the twins, will be to the left of Auriga, with bright Castor and Pollux heading them up. For reference, Orion will be below both of them.
Big Dipper, Bootes, Virgo – The Big Dipper should be easy to find in the NW. Follow the curve of his tail or handle to the next bright star you see, about 30˚ away, which is Arcturus. “Follow the arc to Arcturus.” That’s the brightest star in Bootes, which looks like a kite. Take that same curve, and follow it about another 20˚ to “speed on to Spica”, the brightest star in Virgo, one of my favorite constellations, since it reminds me of the Dickinson Mermaid.
Don’t forget this podcast is found on my Podbean page, Stitcher, and iTunes. There’s also a video version on my YouTube Channel and I can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @mrwebbpv. The Pequea Valley Planetarium and its events and updates are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as @pvplanetarium.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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