Skywatching This Week: March 4-10

Sun and Moon

Daylight Savings Time starts this Sunday, March 10. In Chicago, the SUN sets this week between 5:45 pm and 5:52 pm Central Standard Time (which will actually be 6:52 pm Central Daylight Time); it rises between 6:20 am and 6:11 am Central Standard Time (which will actually be 7:11 am Central Daylight Time). The MOON is at last quarter phase on Monday and continues into its waning crescent phase the rest of the week. It rises after midnight and will be visible in the southeast at dawn.

Planets

JUPITER is visible in the evening in the southwest; it doesn’t set until after midnight. SATURN now rises before 11:00 pm; it is also easily seen in the southwest before sunrise.

Evening Commute

The bright star REGULUS is visible in the east as soon as it gets dark after sunset.

The bright star Regulus is in the east after sunset (Screengrab: Stellarium).
The bright star Regulus is in the east after sunset (Screengrab: Stellarium).

The constellation Orion can be seen in the South after sunset. It features the bright stars BETELGEUSE (the red-orange star on the top left) and RIGEL (the blue-white star on the lower right). You can use Orion (and it’s three-star “belt”) to help guide you to other features in the night sky: the planet JUPITER and the bright stars ALDEBARAN, CAPELLA, SIRIUS, PROCYON, and POLLUX. See last week’s Skywatching.

Other Bright Stars

Pollux has a neighbor, the star CASTOR. Together, they are the two twins of the constellation Gemini. Sirius also has a neighbor that you should be able to find, the star MIRZAM. Between Orion and Pollux, you may find the star ALHENA. Above Orion’s “head” and to the left of Aldebaran and Jupiter is the star ALNATH. Capella, which again is nearly overhead, has a neighbor to its left, the star MENKALINAN. See sketch in last week’s Skywatching.

Spring is approaching (though you wouldn’t know it from Chicago’s weather), and we are beginning to see a new set of stars come into view. A few hours after sunset (by 10:00 pm), the bright stars ARCTURUS and SPICA rise in the east. The planet SATURN isn’t far from SPICA. More on this pair in the coming weeks; they will be rising earlier and earlier in the evening.

Also, if you look to the northeast, you should be able to see the Big Dipper. It has been low in the sky all winter, but it is starting to appear above buildings and trees. By late evening, you can see the dipper hanging almost vertically, the “bowl” pointing left and the “handle” pointing downward to the horizon. The arc of the handle points to the star ARCTURUS (once it rises above the horizon). This is where the phrase, “Follow the arc to Arcturus,” comes from.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s