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Monthly Sky Report - March 2006

Getting Directions
To find the planets, bright stars and groups, you need to know the compass directions where you watch the sky. Lacking a compass, you can use the sun at the start, middle and end of the day. As you face the rising sun - it will be rising in the East. In mid day (around noon), look at your shadow which then points North. The sun will set in the West.

All Through March
During March, there is an average of 11.9 hours of sunlight each day. During March, the sunsets advance from about 6:10 p.m. to 6:35 p.m. Sunrises change from 6:48 a.m. early in the month to 6 a.m. at month's end. Stars begin to fade away an hour before sunrise and the star groups come into view an hour after sunset. In March, the brightest star group Orion begins to shift into the western evening sky. Orion's trademark is his belt of three stars in a row . The belt points left to Sirius, the night's brightest star. The very bright golden star Capella appears high in the western evening sky. Low in the eastern evening is the bright golden star Arcturus, which lies along the curve of the Big Dipper's handle. The planet Saturn appears high in the South to the right of Gemini's bright stars, Pollux and Castor. The Big Dipper is high in the North on March evenings. The two end stars of the scoop point down and left to the North Star while the same stars point up and right to the hook of Leo, the Lion. In the western evening sky, the planet Mars drifts across the star group Taurus. The very bright planet Jupiter appears low in the East in the late evening. The brilliant planet Venus can be seen low in the southeastern dawn in March.

Sights for Early March '06
In the first few days of March, there's a crescent moon low in the western dusk. On March 5th, the evening moon is half full and at its best to view the moon's craters with binoculars or telescopes. On this same evening, the moon appears near the planet Mars (shines steadily). On March 10th, the moon is nearly overhead in the evening sky, appearing near the bright planet Saturn.

Sights for Mid March '06
The evening moon moves from the star group Cancer, through Leo, Virgo, Cancer, Leo, Virgo and into Libra from March 10th through the 20th. The moon grows to full on March 14th, then appearing on the western edge of Virgo. The full moon of March is called the Sap Moon, Crow Moon or Lenten Moon. Late in the evening of March 18th, the moon appears near the bright planet Jupiter. March 20th is the official start of spring, when the sun rises due East and sets due West.

Sights for Late March '06
The moon has moved into the early morning sky, allowing better viewing of the fainter evening sights. On March 26th, the crescent moon appears underneath the brilliant planet Venus in the southeastern dawn. On March 30th and 31st, a slendere crescent moon can be seen low in the western dusk.

Astronomy Activities
The Cumberland Astronomy Club will have their meeting on Friday, March 17th at 7:30 p.m. at the LaVale Public Library. All interested sky gazers are welcome.

The featured March program at the Frostburg State Planetarium is "A Quick and Easy Intro to the Planets" with free Sunday showings at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on March 5th, 12th and 19th. The Planetarium is just off the front lobby of Tawes Hall in mid campus with convenient free parking. There will be a free March sky charts available to visitors at the Sunday Planetarium programs. Call the Frostburg State Planetarium at (301) 687-4270 and press 4 to receive a free planetarium brochure which includes a map of how to reach the planetarium.










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