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Sky Report -March 2009

Shift to Daylight Time on 8th,  Saturn Brightest in Evening Sky and Venus Drops from View

The new rule for Daylight Time is to advance our clocks one hour on the second Sunday of March, which falls on March 8th in 2009. We will be on Daylight time till the first Sunday of November, the 1st, when we set our clocks back an hour. This change was due to the “Energy Policy Act of 2005”, passed by the U.S. Congress and took effect in 2007. In Europe, the shift to daylight time is on the last Sunday in March and standard time resumes on the last Sunday in October.

The evening moon is half full on March 4th, then offering the best views of craters and mountain ranges through binoculars. The moon will be full on the evening of March 10th, then appearing near the planet Saturn.

On the evening of March 8th, the planet Saturn will be closest and brightest. The ringed planet will then be 780 million miles from Earth, so far that the light reflected off Saturn’s rings and clouds will take 1 hour and 10 minutes to travel to the Earth. Through a telescope, Saturn’s rings are nearly edge on as they do about every 15 years. Saturn has a tilt of about 27 degrees, so twice each revolution period (every 29.46 years), the rings appear to line up as we view Saturn from Earth.

Venus has been a brilliant object in the western dusk since December, 2008. But in late March, Venus will catch up with the Earth and swing into the morning sky. On March 1st, Venus will be setting 3 hours after sunset. In Mid-March, Venus will be setting only 90 minutes after sunset. By March 22, Venus will be setting only 40 minutes after sunset, seen very briefly low in the bright western twilight. On March 27th, Venus will pass 8 degrees North of the sun. Our nearest neighbor will then be 26.1 million miles from the Earth. Owing to its rapid orbital motion, Venus will again be seen low in the Southeastern dawn at month’s end at 6:35 a.m

Featured at the Frostburg State Planetarium in March will be “Earth from Distant Stars” with free planetarium programs each Sunday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., except for March 15th. The Planetarium is in Tawes 302, just inside the front lobby that faces the Compton Science Center.  To request a  Planetarium/Science Museum bookmark, please call (301) 687-7799 and leave your name and mailing address.   


By Dr. Bob Doyle

To contact Dr. Doyle, his mailing address is Planetarium, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD 21532 or by email at rdoyle@frostburg.edu.









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