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March 2014 Celestial Calendar c/o Dave Mitsky

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March 2014 Celestial Calendar & Observing Notes c/o Dave Mitsky
(calendar data also reproduced in our forum calendar).

All times unless otherwise noted are UT.

3/1 New Moon (lunation 1128) occurs at 8:00; asteroid 1 Ceres is stationary at 20:00; Mars is stationary at 21:00
3/3 Saturn is stationary at 4:00; Uranus is 2 degrees south of the Moon at 10:00
3/5 Asteroid 4 Vesta is stationary at 8:00
3/6 Jupiter is stationary at 10:00
3/8 First Quarter Moon occurs at 13:27; 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 20:05
3/9 Mercury is at the descending node today; Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins today; a double Galilean satellite shadow transit begins at 20:26
3/10 Jupiter is 5 degrees north of the Moon at 11:00
3/11 The Moon is at apogee, subtending 29 arc minutes from a distance of 405,364 kilometers (251,882 miles), at 20:00
3/14 Mercury is at greatest western elongation (28 degrees) at 7:00
3/16 Full Moon (known as the Crow, Lenten, and Sap Moon) occurs at 17:08; a double Galilean satellite shadow transit begins at 22:21
3/18 The Moon is 1.7 degrees north of the first-magnitude star Spica (Alpha Virginis), at 21:00
3/19 Mercury is at aphelion today; Mars is 3 degrees north of the Moon at 3:00
3/20 The vernal equinox occurs at 16:57
3/21 Saturn is 0.2 degrees north of the Moon, with an occultation visible from Madagascar, southern Africa, and northeastern South America at 3:00
3/22 Mercury is 1.2 degrees south of the Neptune at 12:00; Venus is at greatest western elongation (47 degrees) at 20:00
3/24 Last Quarter Moon occurs at 1:46; a double Galilean satellite shadow transit begins at 2:08; asteroid 2 Pallas is stationary at 21:00; the Curtiss Cross, an X-shaped illumination effect located between the craters Parry and Gambart, is predicted to occur at 21:22
3/27 Venus is 4 degrees south of the Moon at 10:00; the Moon is at perigee, subtending 32 arc minutes from a distance of 365,703 kilometers (227,238 miles), at 19:00
3/28 Neptune is 5 degrees south of the Moon at 15:00
3/29 Mercury is 6 degrees south of the Moon at 5:00
3/30 New Moon (lunation 1129) occurs at 18:45
3/31 Mars is 5 degrees north of the first-magnitude star Spica (Alpha Virginis) at 4:00

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 Aquarius and is 29.1 days old at 0:00 UT on March 1st. It's at its greatest northern declination of +19.1 degrees on March 8th and its greatest southern declination of -19.0 degrees on March 23rd. Latitudinal libration is at a maximum of +6.8 degrees on March 12th and a minimum of -6.8 degrees on March 25th. Longitudinal libration is at a maximum of +6.8 degrees on March 5th and a minimum of -5.7 degrees on March 20th. There are two New Moons this month. The waxing gibbous Moon occults Lambda Geminorum (magnitude 3.6) on the night of March 10th/11th for North American observers. Consult http://www.lunar-occultations.com/iota/bstar/bstar.htm for further information on this and other lunar occultation events. Visit http://saberdoesthestars.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/saber-does-the-stars/ for tips on spotting extreme crescent Moons. Click on http://www.calendar-12.com/moon_calendar/2014/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-occultations.com/rlo/rays/rays.htm

The Sun is in Aquarius on March 1st at 0:00 UT. It crosses the celestial equator at 16:57 UT (12:57 p.m. EDT) on March 20th, 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 1st: Mercury (magnitude +0.8, 9.2, 28%, 0.73 a.u., Aquarius), Venus (magnitude -4.8, 32.7", 36% illuminated, 0.51 a.u., Sagittarius), Mars (magnitude -0.5, 11.6", 95% illuminated, 0.81 a.u., Virgo), Jupiter (magnitude -2.4, 42.2", 99% illuminated, 4.65 a.u., Gemini), Saturn (magnitude +0.4, 17.4", 100% illuminated, 9.56 a.u., Libra), Uranus (magnitude +5.9, 3.4", 100% illuminated, 20.98 a.u. on March 16th, Pisces), Neptune (magnitude +8.0, 2.2", 100% illuminated, 30.91 a.u. on March 16th, Aquarius), and Pluto (magnitude +14.2, 0.1", 100% illuminated, 32.91 a.u. on March 16th, Sagittarius).

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

Three planets (Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) and the two brightest asteroids (Ceres and Vesta) all commence retrograde motion this month.

Mercury lies low in the east at dawn. Greatest western elongation takes place on March 14th.

Venus shrinks in apparent size by almost ten arc seconds this month but increases 18% in illumination. It reaches greatest western elongation on March 22nd. Venus rises two hours before the Sun on that date.

Mars rises at approximately 9:30 p.m. local time as March begins. It increases in brightness from magnitude -0.5 to magnitude -1.3 and grows in apparent size from 11.6 arc minutes to 14.6 arc minutes this month. The north pole of the planet is inclined by about 20 degrees. During the latter part of the month, the prominent Martian feature known as Syrtis Major lies near the central meridian at midnight. Consult http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/javascript/3307831.html to determine which features are visible at a given time and date.

During March, Jupiter decreases almost four arc seconds in angular diameter and dims by two-tenths of a magnitude. It reaches its highest northern declination (23 degrees and 17 arc seconds) during the period from 2002 to 2026 on March 11th. A noteworthy double Galilean satellite shadow transit involving Io and Ganymede takes place from 10:09 to 10:32 p.m. EDT for most North American observers on the evening March 23rd. Browse http://skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/planets/article_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.com/observing/objects/javascript/3307071.html#

Saturn rises a bit more than two hours after Mars this month. It reaches maximum altitude just before morning twilight. The planet’s disc spans 18 arc seconds. Its rings are 40 arc seconds in diameter and are tilted by 22 degrees. 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 15th and March 31st and south of the planet on March 6th and March 22nd. For further information on the major satellites of Saturn, browse http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/javascript/3308506.html

Uranus is located 4.5 degrees south-southwest of the fourth-magnitude star Delta Piscium. The seventh planet disappears from view by mid-March. A finder chart for Uranus can be found at http://media.skyandtelescope.com/documents/Uranus-Neptune-2013.pdf

Neptune reappears low in the morning sky in late March for observers in the southern hemisphere.

Pluto is not a viable target this month.

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

The dwarf planet/asteroid 1 Ceres (magnitude 7.8 on March 1st) and asteroid 4 Vesta (magnitude 6.6 on March 1st) both travel northeastward through the constellation of Virgo this month. See http://media.skyandtelescope.com/documents/Web_Ceres_Vesta_2014.pdf for a finder chart. During March, asteroid 2 Pallas heads northwestward through Hydra. The seventh-magnitude asteroid is due east of the second-magnitude star Alphard (Alpha Hydrae) on March 1st. Asteroid 24 Themis (magnitude 10.6) reaches opposition on March 13th, asteroid 79 Eurynome (magnitude 11.4) on March 14th, 48 Doris (magnitude 11.1) on March 20th, 21 Lutetia (magnitude 11.0) on March 22nd, and 91 Aegina (magnitude 12.0) on March 25th. On March 20th, asteroid 163 Erigone (magnitude 12.4) occults the first-magnitude star Regulus (Alpha Leonis), along a path that includes Long Island, New York City, parts of Connecticut and New Jersey, New York's Hudson River valley, and Ontario. See http://occultations.org/Regulus2014/ for more on this rare event. Click on http://asteroidoccultation.com/2014_01_si.htm respectively for information on other asteroid oppositions and occultations taking place this month.

Comet C/2012 K1 (PanSTARRS) glows at tenth magnitude as it treks northwestward through Hercules. Visit http://cometchasing.skyhound.com/ for additional information on this month’s comets.

A wealth of current information on solar system celestial bodies is posted at http://www.curtrenz.com/astronomical

Browse http://astrocast.tv/ for an informative video on astronomical events taking place this month

Free star maps for March can be downloaded at http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html and http://www.telescope.com/content.jsp?pageName=Monthly-Star-Chart

The famous eclipsing variable star Algol (Beta Persei) is at a minimum, decreasing in magnitude from 2.1 to 3.4, on March 1st, 4th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 15th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 27th, and 30th. For more on Algol, see http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/Algol.html and http://www.solstation.com/stars2/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.

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