Celestial events in the skies for the week of March 14-20, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
Say goodbye to blazing Venus as she get lost in the solar glare after sunset and is all but gone next week. The evening skies will seem a bit naked without Venus tricking our eyes with her brightness. But don’t worry; the second planet will pop up in the morning sky in April. And Spring finally arrives, on time and welcome after a pretty mild winter in the Appalachians.
Tuesday, March 14
The gibbous Moon rises around 10:30 pm right after Jupiter and Spica in Virgo the Virgin. Each day the Moon rises about 40 minutes later than the day before.
Wednesday, March 15
While you say goodbye to Venus, don’t forget Mars, still hanging around in Pisces the Fishes until setting around 9:30 pm DST. There are six spacecraft orbiting Mars and two crawling around the surface. We’re living in the Golden Age of Mars Exploration.
Thursday, March 16
As darkness descends around 7:30 pm the mighty lion rises in the east standing on his hind legs. Yes, Leo is a sure sign of Spring, and for amateur astronomers it is filled with faint, fuzzy galaxies in their telescopes.
Friday, March 17
St. Patrick’s Day…which has nothing to do with astronomy. But on this 2011 date in space history, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft began orbiting Mercury. The successful mission continues as the entire surface of the first planet has been photographed by Messenger.
Saturday, March 18
On this 1965 date in space history, Alexei Leonov, 83, took the world’s first space walk outside the Voskhod 2 spaceship. Watching inside the spaceship was cosmonaut Pavel Belyayev. Leonov also commanded the Soviet spaceship that docked with an Apollo manned spacecraft in 1975, and is a Russian national hero.
Sunday, March 19
With Daylight Saving Time in effect for a week, sunset will be noticeably pushing back each week as we have a 7:30 pm time today, leaving twilight until 8:30 pm or so. And as it warms up, those brilliant stars of the Winter Octagon will make you look skyward!
Monday, March 20
Vernal Equinox is today as the Sun enters Aries the Ram at 6:29 am…and the long, hard Winter is over. Seen from the equator, the Sun is directly overhead at noon, and around the world there are an equal 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.