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Sky Report - March 2013


Daylight Time Shift, Comet for Binoculars and Easter on March 31st

On the second Sunday of March (March 10th this year), we shift to Daylight Saving Time by setting our clocks forward an hour as we go to bed on Saturday evening. This time shift causes sunrise to come an hour later (7:30 a.m.), the sun crests about 1:25 p.m. and sunset comes an hour later (7:20 p.m.). We will be on Daylight Time for about 8 months, till the first Sunday in November. Parts of the U.S. that don't change their clocks are Hawaii and Arizona. In Europe, the shift to Daylight Time is made on the last Sunday in March. For sky gazers, Daylight time allows more convenient early morning sky gazing (it's dark as late as 6 a.m. locally) but an hour less of evening sky viewing (locally ,it's not very dark till 9 p.m.).

Spring officially begins about 7 a.m. on March 20th when the sun's direct rays cross the equator moving North. On this date, the sun rises due East and sets due West. But due to the bending upward of the sun's image at both sunrise and sunset, we have 8 minutes more daylight than night. On March 17th, day and night are equal, at 12 hours each. All through the spring and summer, the northern half of the globe receives more solar energy than the southern half. At both North and South Poles, the sun moves around the horizon on the first day of spring. At the North Pole, the sun will be slowly increasing its height. During the spring and summer, the sun shines continuously at the North Pole. For the South Pole, conditions are reversed. After a month and a half of bright twilight, it will get darker and the stars will be seen continuously for 3 months.

The full moon on March 27th will cause Easter to fall on the next Sunday, March 31st. Most Christian churches follow the rule that Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon of Spring. In this century, the earliest Easter was on March 23rd in 2008. A very early Easter occurs when there is a full moon just after the start of spring. The latest Easter in the 21st century will be on April 25th in 2038. A very late Easter occurs when there is a full moon just before the start of spring; we then have to wait nearly a month for the next full moon.

Early March Sights – The moon will be shining in the morning sky. On the morning of March 4th, the moon will appear half full (like a reversed 'D') in the southern dawn. The planet Jupiter appears high in the South at dusk. So there's good telescopic observing of Jupiter's moons and its atmospheric cloud belts throughout the evening hours. In the last hour of the evening, the planet Saturn rises in the Southeast. Saturn is best observed in the hours before dawn when it is high in the sky.

Mid March Sights – The moon returns to the evening sky, growing from a slender crescent on March 12th to half full on March 19th. The moon will appear close to the bright planet Jupiter on the evening of March 17th. Our satellite is about ¼ of a million miles away while Jupiter is about 500 million miles away, 2,000 times farther out. The planet Mercury is rising 45 minutes ahead of the sun, but its southerly position keeps it close to the horizon. Comet Pan Starrs discovered in 2011 will pass closest to the sun on March 10th at a distance of 28 million miles. Two days later, this comet may be seen low in the 8 p.m. dusk to the left of a very thin crescent moon. Each night, the comet will shift to the right and be slightly higher. Binoculars are needed to see this visitor from the farthest reaches of the solar system (the Oort Cloud). Pan Starrs will likely appear as a 'fuzzy star'.

Late March Sights – On March 24th, the evening moon appears to the South (below) of Regulus, the bright star marking Leo's heart. On Tuesday evening, March 26th the moon is full, rising as the sun sets and hanging in the sky all night long. On the evenings of March 27th and 28th, the moon appears near Spica, the brightest star of Virgo. The next planet to be visited by the moon will be Saturn late in the evening of March 29th

In March, our free public presentation in the Compton Science Discovery Center is "Hooved Animals of Northern Lands" on each Sunday at 4 p.m. (except Easter Sunday, March 31st). This presentation will begin with a survey of the current evening sky. Then our program "Hooved Animals", which will cover species such as Caribou, Moose, Elk and Mongolian Sheep. Then you may tour the Science Discovery Center where we have a number of mounted specimens of Hooved Animals. The Compton Science Center is the large building close to the Performing Art Center. You can park in front of Performing Arts Center and walk around it to the right. Or you can park near Frampton Hall. This presentation lasts less than a half hour.

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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