Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What's Up, March 2012

Here's a March What's Up plus a few astronomy announcements:
Announcements first:
  • On Friday, March 16, Dennis Mammana and the Borrego Springs Resort host Encounter with Mars. This is a paid event that includes dinner, lecture and observing.
  • On Saturday, March 31, the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve with the Temecula Valley Astronomers will host a public star party. The details are not determined yet, but most likely an indoor presentation will begin at 7:00 pm followed by observing through telescopes. The event will last a couple hours and there will be a presentation regardless of weather. I'll share specific times as they become available
Below are some highlights from my March What's Up presentation given to both the Temecula Valley Astronomers and the Orange County Astronomers:

Sky Map with planets visible to the naked eye.

Say good bye to Canis Major, Orion, and Taurus, as these constellations set early. NOTE: I interpret Taurus differently that what is customary. I give Orion's shield to Taurus, becoming the bull's rear legs.

Say hello to Spring's Ursa Major

The common asterism of Ursa Major

The bear shape giving Ursa Major it's name

March (or Spring equinox) makes for a highly tilted ecliptic in the evening, and lowly tilted in moring, making now a good time to observe Venus. Mercury, however, was high at the beginning of the month but by now has dropped low. Also, the high eclipted makes this time of year is the best time to observe the evening zodiacal light. Look for this 30-60 min after sunset.
Zodiacal light (pronounced Zoo DYE i cal). Left, as seen; right, contrasted enhanced.

Various conjunctions of Mars. Top right: Mars from 2003 with estimated size of Mars 2012 opposition on top.


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