SJAA Ephemeris March 2000 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next

The Shallow Sky

Last Chance for the Giants

Akkana Peck

March is our last chance, for a while, to observe the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn which have graced our fall and winter skies, before they disappear in the sunset glare around the end of the month. Get your telescope out at sunset, before they sink too low to show much detail. Sometimes you get lucky and the air gets especially steady just after sunset, before becoming turbulent again later in the evening.

Meanwhile, Mars, which has hung low in the western sky for months now, draws close to the two outer planets, heading toward a conjunction with Jupiter early next month. The trio will make a nice triangle around March 22nd.

March will be a good month for catching asteroids as they pass by deep-sky objects. (I'm a sucker for views of multiple objects in the same field!)

Asteroid 1 Ceres, at magnitude 6.9, is in the Coma/Virgo area, and will make a close pass by galaxy M91 on the 21st (unfortunately this is just past full moon), less than a day before its opposition, and will be near M88 by the following (third-quarter) weekend. April will see it pass by M100, M99 and M98. If you're practicing for a Messier Marathon (or even if you're not), why not take a shallow-sky break while navigating through the realm of galaxies this month?

Asteroid 2 Pallas, at magnitude 7.4, passes right by the open cluster M47 during the last few days of February and the first few days of March. Watch over several successive nights and see if you can spot the motion of this "star" just west of M47 (the opposite side from M46, but closer to M47 than M46 is).

Venus, Mercury, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are all visible in the pre-dawn hours. On the 15th and 16th, use binoculars or a wide-field telescope to locate faint Mercury (showing a slight crescent at higher magnifications) just over two degrees above bright, gibbous Venus.

The earth reaches equinox just before midnight on the night of March 19th.

Mail to: Akkana Peck
Copyright © 2000 San Jose Astronomical Association
Last updated: July 19, 2007

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