What's Up in The Sky Now
March 2020 (Notes by DMAS member Dave Lynch)
This month the planets seem to be split up between late evening and early morning hours. Of course weather will play an important role as around this time of the year we seem to have an abundance of cloudy skies and the occasional snow shower.
MERCURY is pretty much a no show this month. It will remain within the glow of the sun all month and will not come out and play with the other planets.
VENUS is the brightest point in the night sky this month and will remain top dog for some time to come. Venus will grow in apparent size all month but at the same time the phases will continue to shrink to about half its diameter.
EARTH is in its "I'm not sure what I am doing" phase this month. Weather can turn on a dime from one day to the next. It is still too early to put away the winter clothing but it will be mild enough at times to tease us.
MARS is leading a trio of planets in the early morning hours this month. Well above the horizon at sunrise, Mars is closing in on the constellation of Sagittarius and just before sunrise should be well over thirty degrees high in the southeast.
JUPITER is chasing Mars in the early morning sky and is also above the horizon well before sunrise. Jupiter, along with Mars and a catching-up Saturn will form a nice tiny group in the southeast about one hour before sunrise on the last day of the month. Saturn and Mars will be within a half a degree of each other with Jupiter out in front.
SATURN is playing catch-up with Jupiter and clears the eastern horizon well before sunrise. Great to have this beautiful planet back.
URANUS is sliding below the western horizon this month and by the end of the month will be too low in the night sky to see from here.
NEPTUNE is pretty much a distant memory this month. Well out of sight at sunset we bid goodbye to this distant world for some months.
First Quarter -> March 02
Full Moon -> March 09
Last Quarter -> March 16
2nd New Moon -> Marchy 24
Other topics this month:
COMET PANSTARRS (C/2017 T2) IS STILL HANGING AROUND:
This comet is still crossing our night sky and according to "experts" it is gaining in brightness. It is estimated to reach its peak brightness sometime in May. This month this ice ball is passing through the constellation of Cassiopeia, well overhead and not blocked by any lighting or trees. When searching for this visitor, look for a tiny fuzz ball glowing in a greenish color. Right now it is peaking at 9th magnitude. It is not showing much of a tail yet but it is expected to warm up more in the coming months and grow one.
BETELGEUSE IS STILL ACTING STRANGELY:
The giant red star in the constellation of Orion has a lot of professional astronomers watching it closely. It has been dimming noticeably and some people have said it might be on its way to a gigantic super nova. Another "opinion" recently expressed is there is a huge sun spot covering a large amount of the disk of the star causing the dimming. If that is true, this sun spot would be almost as large as a small solar system. Whatever seems to be causing the problem, this star is acting strangely and something big is about to happen. If Betelgeuse were to go super nova, at 650 light years distant from us, it would still be quite a sight to see. [A latest report indicates that Betegeuse is mysteriously getting brighter again.]