Southern Cross Stargazer for March 16-22, 2014

 

Sunday

The Lenten moon is full at 1:08 p.m. and rises in the east at dusk. By nightfall golden Jupiter glows in Gemini overhead. The Gemini Twins Castor and Pollux lie left of Jupiter. Castor (top twin), 52 light years distant, has a multiple star system — its own companion star plus two other stellar partners spinning around one another. Pollux, 34 light years distant (lower, larger twin) is a red giant star that has burned up most of its energy and is slowly expanding. The dim Beehive star cluster, in Cancer, Crab, shimmers below the Twins.

Capella guides Auriga, Charioteer, across the north. Outer planet blue-green Uranus, in Pisces the Fish, descends toward the western horizon. The Seven Sisters (Pleiades cluster) lead Taurus, Bull into the northwest. Aldebaran (Bull’s red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull’s face). Orion, Hunter, chases the Bull into the west. Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius sparkles from Orion’s Big Dog trotting on its hind legs in the south, trailed by the Pups in the southeast.

Bright Canopus radiates rainbow colors from the ancient ship Argo low in the south. Leo, Lion climbs higher in the east. The Big Dipper covers the northeastern sky. Mid-evening the Big Dipper becomes visible above the city sky-glow. Its bowl always faces Polaris, North Star. The Little Dipper pivots around Polaris, its handle appears attached to the North Star. Late evening Arcturus, Herdsman, sparkles in the northeast. Corvus, Crow flies higher in the southeast, followed by Spica and brightening Mars, both in Virgo.

Wednesday

About 4 a.m. Jupiter sets in the northwest. Mars and Spica cruise across the south. By 6:30 a.m. Mercury descends to the eastern horizon. Brilliant Venus, Morning Star glows above Capricornus, Sea Goat in the southeast. Silver Saturn in Libra leads huge Scorpius across the south closely followed by the Sagittarian Teapot. Vega brings the Summer Triangle higher in the east. Arcturus sparkles in the west. The Big Dipper turns into the northwest.

Thursday

The Vernal Equinox occurs at 12:57 p.m. Spring begins in the northern hemisphere as the northbound sun crosses the Equator. Day and night hours are about equal for a week. The sun rises due east and sets due west.

Friday

• Members of Southern Cross and International Dark Sky Association present a special program in the FIU Physics lecture hall CP-145, Modesto Maidique campus, 8 p.m. with prizes/announcements. Government officials, park and utility personnel, faculty, students are welcome to the 8:30 p.m film City Dark, illustrating problems caused by light pollution; 9:30 p.m. Open Forum conducted by SCAS and IDA with audience participation. Refreshments follow the free program. Park in visitors/staff spaces, campus Red garage, west side of Southwest 109th Avenue at Eighth Street. Follow SCAS signs across the patio into CP-145. 305-661-1375 scas.org.

Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org

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