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March 2013 Celestial Calendar & Observing Notes c/o Dave Mitsky

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March 2013 Celestial Calendar & Observing Notes c/o Dave Mitsky

(calendar data also reproduced in our forum calendar).

*NB: Check out also the resources at the end of Dave's calendar for further reading/information*

All times unless otherwise noted are UT.

3/1 The Moon is 0.1 degree south of the first-magnitude star Spica (Alpha Virginis),with an occultation visible from central South America, eastern Central America, eastern Mexico, and the Galapagos Islands, at 7:00

3/2 Saturn is 3 degrees north of the Moon at 15:00

3/4 Mercury is in inferior conjunction at 13:00; Last Quarter Moon occurs at 21:53

3/5 The Moon is at perigee, subtending 32 arc minutes from a distance of 369,957 kilometers (229,881 miles), at 23:00; the Curtiss Cross, an X-shaped illumination effect located between the craters Parry and Gambart, is predicted to occur at 23:22

3/9 A double Galilean satellite shadow transit (Europa’s shadow follows Ganymede’s) begins at 8:15

3/10 Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins today; Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) is at perihelion, a distance of 45 million kilometers or 28 million miles from the Sun, at 3:00; Neptune is 6 degrees south of the Moon at 16:00

3/11 New Moon (lunation 1116) occurs at 19:51

3/12 Asteroid 29 Amphitrite (magnitude 9.0) is at opposition at 17:00

3/15 Venus is at its greatest heliocentric latitude south today

3/16 A double Galilean satellite shadow transit (Europa’s shadow follows Ganymede’s) begins at 10:51; Mercury is stationary at 21:00

3/17 Asteroid 15 Eunomia (magnitude 9.6) is at opposition at 1:00

3/18 Jupiter is 1.5 degrees north of the Moon at 1:00

3/19 The Moon is at apogee, subtending 29 arc minutes from a distance of 404,261 kilometers (251,196 miles), at 3:00; the Lunar X (also known as the Purbach or Werner Cross), an X-shaped illumination effect involving various rims and ridges between the craters La Caille, Blanchinus, and Purbach, is predicted to occur at 11:54; First Quarter Moon occurs at 17:27; asteroid 14 Irene (magnitude 8.3) is at opposition at 23:00

3/20 The vernal equinox occurs at 11:02

3/22 Mercury is at the descending node today

3/23 A double Galilean satellite shadow transit (Ganymede’s shadow follows Europa’s) begins at 14:49

3/24 Jupiter is 5 degrees north of the first-magnitude star Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri) at 18:00

3/27 Full Moon (known as the Crow, Lenten, and Sap Moon) occurs at 9:27

3/28 The Moon is 0.01 degree south of the first-magnitude star Spica (Alpha Virginis), with an occultation visible from French Polynesia, Melanesia, northern Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and southeast Asia, at 15:00; Venus is in superior conjunction at 18:00

3/29 Uranus is in conjunction with the Sun at 0:00; Saturn is 3 degrees north of the Moon at 20:00

3/31 The Moon is at perigee, subtending 32 arc minutes from a distance of 367,504 kilometers (228,357 miles), at 4:00; Mercury is at greatest western elongation (28 degrees) at 22:00

John Herschel (1792-1871), Percival Lowell (1855-1916), Albert Einstein (1879-1955), and Walter Baade (1893-1960) were born this month.

Titan, Saturn’s largest satellite, was discovered on March 25, 1655 by the Dutch astronomer Christiann Huygens. Sir William Herschel discovered Uranus on March 13, 1781. The first photograph of the Moon was taken on March 23, 1840. The rings of Uranus were discovered on March 10, 1977.

The Moon is located in Virgo and is 18.7 days old at 0:00 UT on March 1. It's at its greatest northern declination of +20.3 degrees on March 18 and its greatest southern declination of -20.4 degrees on March 5. Latitudinal libration is at a maximum of +6.7 degrees on March 23 and a minimum of -6.6 degrees on March 9. Longitudinal libration is at a maximum of +5.1 degrees on March 12 and a minimum of -5.6 degrees on March 25. The Moon occults the fifth-magnitude star 71 Orionis on the night March 19 and the third-magnitude star Beta Scorpii (Graffias) on the morning of March 31 for parts of North America. Consult http://www.lunar-occ...bstar/bstar.htm for further information on these events. Visit http://saberdoesthes...does-the-stars/ for tips on spotting extreme crescent Moons. Click on http://www.calendar-...ndar/2013/march for a March lunar calendar. Times and dates for the lunar light rays predicted to occur this month are available at http://www.lunar-occ...o/rays/rays.htm

The Sun is in Aquarius on March 1 at 0:00 UT. It crosses the celestial equator at 11:02 UT (7:02 a.m. EDT) on March 20, bringing spring to the northern hemisphere.

Brightness, apparent size, illumination, distance from the Earth in astronomical units, and location data for the planets and Pluto on March 1: Mercury (magnitude 3.7, 10.1, 4%, 0.66 a.u., Pisces), Venus (magnitude -3.9, 9.8", 99% illuminated, 1.70 a.u., Aquarius), Mars (magnitude 1.2, 4.0", 100% illuminated, 2.35 a.u., Aquarius), Jupiter (magnitude -2.3, 39.2", 99% illuminated, 5.03 a.u., Taurus), Saturn (magnitude 0.4, 17.9", 100% illuminated, 9.20 a.u., Libra), Uranus (magnitude 5.9, 3.4", 100% illuminated, 21.02 a.u. on March 16, Pisces), Neptune (magnitude 8.0, 2.2", 100% illuminated, 30.91 a.u. on March 16, Aquarius), and Pluto (magnitude 14.1, 0.1", 100% illuminated, 32.66 a.u. on March 16, Sagittarius).

In the evening, Jupiter can be seen in the southwest and Uranus in the west. Jupiter is located in the west and Saturn in the southeast at midnight. Mercury is in the east, Saturn is in the southwest, and Neptune is in the southeast in the morning sky.

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Uranus, and Neptune lie within 40 degrees of one another this month. Mercury, Venus, and Uranus are all in conjunction with the Sun in March.

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on March 4. Mercury reappears in the morning sky at dawn around midmonth, with southern hemisphere observers getting a better view. Greatest western elongation takes place on March 31.

During March, Venus is lost in the glare of the Sun. The planet completes one-half of a Cytherean synodic period (584 days) when it reaches superior conjunction on March 28.

Mars is not visible this month. It passes 43 arc minutes north of Uranus on March 22.

Jupiter sinks lower in the sky with each passing night. During March, the gas giant drops over three arc seconds in angular diameter and dims by 0.2 magnitude. It sets around 1:00 a.m. local time at midmonth. Jupiter is 1.5 degrees north of the waxing crescent Moon on the night of March 17. Double Galilean satellite transits take place on March 9, 16, and 23. These events can’t be from Pennsylvania, however. On March 17, only two of the Galilean satellites (Ganymede and Callisto) will be visible from 12:13 to 1:21 a.m. EDT. On the night of March 26, only Callisto will be visible for a brief period prior to 10:12 p.m. EDT. Browse http://skyandtelesco...ticle_107_1.asp in order to determine transit times of Jupiter’s central meridian by the Great Red Spot. Data on the Galilean satellites is available at http://skytonight.co...t/3307071.html#

Saturn retrogrades through Libra this month. The tilt angle of its rings during March is 19 degrees. Its equatorial diameter is 18.3 arc seconds at midmonth. Saturn rises at 11:00 p.m. local time and transits the meridian at 4:00 a.m. local time at midmonth. The waning gibbous Moon passes three degrees south of the Ringed Planet during daylight on March 2 and March 29. Click on http://www.curtrenz.com/saturn for a wealth of information on Saturn. Eight-magnitude Titan is positioned north of Saturn on the nights of March 12 and March 28 and south of the planet on March 4 and March 20. Iapetus is nine arc minutes from Saturn when it reaches greatest western elongation on March 13. For further information on the major satellites of Saturn, browse http://www.skyandtel...pt/3308506.html

Uranus is in conjunction with the Sun on March 29 and consequently is not visible this month. At the time of the conjunction, Uranus is positioned 0.7 degree south of the Sun and Venus is 0.7 degree south of Uranus.

Neptune reappears low in the morning sky in late March but is more easily seen by observers in the southern hemisphere.

It may be possible to observe Pluto just before dawn this month.

For more on the planets and how to locate them, browse http://www.nakedeyeplanets.com/

Asteroid 1 Ceres shines at eighth-magnitude as it heads eastward through Taurus and Auriga this month. It passes less than one degree south of the second-magnitude star Beta Tauri (El Nath) on March 6.

Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) is 1.09 astronomical units from the Earth at perigee on March 5. The comet reaches perihelion on March 10, at a distance of 0.30 astronomical units. It will be at its best for northern hemisphere observers from March 12 to March 17. Comet PANSTARRS may attain a brightness of magnitude -0.2 on March 10 but observing it will be difficult, since the comet will be very close to the Sun at the time. By March 20, it may fade to magnitude 1.3, which would make Comet PANSTARRS still easily visible to the unaided eye. However, it appears that a more likely peak magnitude may be between second and third magnitude which may mean a less-than-spectacular apparition, especially when coupled with the comet’s low altitude at sunset and increasingly bright moonlight as the month progresses. For more on this comet, see the article on pages 60 through 63 of the March issue of Astronomy and pages 50 and 51 of the March issue of Sky & Telescope. Browsefor a video on Comet PANSTARRS. Visit http://cometchasing.skyhound.com/ for additional information on the comets visible this month.

A free star map for March can be downloaded at http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html

The famous eclipsing variable star Algol (Beta Persei) is at a minimum, decreasing in magnitude from 2.1 to 3.4, on March 2, 5, 8, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, and 31. For more on Algol, see http://stars.astro.i.../sow/Algol.html and http://www.solstatio...ars2/algol3.htm

Thirty binary and multiple stars for March: Struve 1173, Struve 1181, Struve 1187, Zeta Cancri, 24 Cancri, Phi-2 Cancri, Iota-1 Cancri, Struve 1245, Iota-2 Cancri, 66 Cancri, Struve 1327 (Cancer); Struve 1270, Epsilon Hydrae, 15 Hydrae, 17 Hydrae, Theta Hydrae, 27 Hydrae, Struve 1347, Struve 1357, Struve 1365 (Hydra); 3 Leonis, Struve 1360, 6 Leonis, Omicron Leonis (Leo); Struve 1274, Struve 1282, Struve 1333, 38 Lyncis, Struve 1369 (Lynx); h4046 (Puppis)

Notable carbon star for March: T Cancri (Cancer)

Thirty-five deep-sky objects for March: M44, M67, NGC 2775 (Cancer); Abell 33, M48, NGC 2610, NGC 2642, NGC 2811, NGC 2835, NGC 2855, NGC 2935, NGC 2992, NGC 3052, NGC 3078 (Hydra); NGC 2903, NGC 2916, NGC 2964, NGC 2968, NGC 3020 (Leo); NGC 2859, NGC 3003, NGC 3021 (Leo Minor); NGC 2683 (Lynx); NGC 2567, NGC 2571 (Puppis); M81, M82, NGC 2639, NGC 2654, NGC 2681, NGC 2685, NGC 2742, NGC 2768, NGC 2787, NGC 2841, NGC 2880, NGC 2950, NGC 2976, NGC 2985 (Ursa Major)

Top ten binocular deep-sky objects for March: M44, M48, M67, M81, M82, NGC 2571, NGC 2683, NGC 2841, NGC 2903, NGC 2976

Top ten deep-sky objects for March: M44, M48, M67, M81, M82, NGC 2654, NGC 2683, NGC 2835, NGC 2841, NGC 2903

Challenge deep-sky object for March: Abell 30 (Cancer)

The objects listed above are located between 8:00 and 10:00 hours of right ascension.


*Suggestions for further reading/information:*

Check out the following two sites (both are primarily UK-based) - each of which contain excellent celestial guides for the month ahead:

Astronomical Calendar

Astronomy.co.uk (site includes a short video highlighting some of the main celestial events for the month ahead).

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