Celestial events in the skies for the week of March 21-27, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
This week of March is the first full week of Spring. The Moon has slipped into the deep of the night, greeting those leaving the night clubs late or getting up early for work. Both the evening skies, with the dazzling and familiar Winter constellations, and the morning skies of Summer constellations are enticing us to just look up a few minutes. The Spring star patterns are leaping over the eastern horizon, lead by the mighty lion, Leo. Take the time to sit down, look up and loose oneself in the contemplation of the stars…it’ll be time well spent.
Tuesday, March 21
When darkness sets in after 8 pm, in the east is Leo the Lion, his flowing mane a backward question mark dotted by the bright star Regulus. The hindquarters are a right triangle, and unseen to the naked eye in the lion’s belly are dozens of galaxies.
Wednesday, March 22
On this 1997 date in astronomy, the world was abuzz as Comet Hale-Bopp was closest to Earth and an easy naked eye sight in the evening skies.
Thursday, March 23
On this 1840 date in astronomy, the first photo of the Moon through a telescope was made by William Draper on a silver platinum photographic plate. Just 177 years later, most of us have a digital camera on our cell phones that will take a great Moon photo through any telescope.
Friday, March 24
The winter constellations still dominate—Orion, Canis Major, Gemini, Taurus and Auriga among them. They are setting one-by-one, lead by the famous star cluster, The Pleiades in the shoulder of the bull.
Saturday, March 25
On this astronomy date in 1996, naked eye Comet Hyakutake was closest to Earth, heading back out in the edge of the Solar System after whipping around the Sun.
Sunday, March 26
Venus is lost in the solar glare, but Mars is still the red star hanging around the above the western horizon. And rising in the east around 10 pm is yellow planet Jupiter and bluish star Spica, both in Virgo the Virgin.
Monday, March 27
Don’t forget to look northeast and see the Big Dipper asterism of Ursa Major standing on its handle. The end stars of the bowl point to the North Star, Polaris. On the west side of Polaris and setting dipping low is the familiar “M” of Cassiopeia.