Feb 25, 2019
by Tre Gibbs, Los Angeles Astronomical Society
On Wednesday, March 20th at approximately 2:58pm, Spring will officially begin, while our neighbors below the equator in the Southern Hemisphere will simultaneously be celebrating the return of Autumn. On this day, both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere will receive equal amounts of daylight and darkness, hence the term Equinox which is Latin for “Equal Night”. Back in December, ever since the Winter Solstice, the sun has been gradually making its way northward. On the Equinoxes, the sun rises due east and sets due west, right in the middle - equidistant between the rising and setting locations of the sun during the Solstices. After this day however, the amount of daylight becomes greater than the amount of night time, as the sun continues its journey northward and the days continue to get longer until June 21st, The Summer Solstice.
March 20th not only ushers in The Vernal (or Spring) Equinox but also this month’s Full Moon! The full moon in March is known as the Full Worm Moon. This is the time of the year when the ground begins to soften and the earth worm casts reappear, inviting the return of the Robin - a true sign of Spring. As always, the moon appears full because it is opposite the sun relative to Earth, therefore we see the entire face of the moon illuminated, rather than just a sliver or part of it. The moon being opposite the sun (or full) also means it rises in the east at the same time the sun is setting in the west.
As always, the moon travels the sky with several planets this month. Early risers will be treat-ed to Venus, Jupiter and Saturn in the pre-dawn skies, while early evening star gazers will be able to view The God of War, Mars. On the morning of March 1st - at about 5:00 am - look to-wards the Southeast to see Venus, Saturn, the Moon and Jupiter all lined up in a diagonal line
stretching from low in the east to high in the southeast. Venus, The Goddess of Beauty & Love, is the lowest and brightest, Jupiter, The Roman King of the Gods, will be the highest and second brightest, while Saturn (the God of Agriculture AND the farthest naked eye planet) will be less spectacularly bright and just to the left of the moon. The following morning however, the waning crescent moon slips further east and travels the sky to the right of Venus. In the early evening hours of March 11th, look to the west for faint, reddish Mars to the right of the young waxing crescent moon. Towards month’s end, the moon has continued its monthly orbit around our planet and will line up with Jupiter and Saturn again. In the pre-dawn skies of March 26th, look for bright Jupiter to the left and slightly below the waning gibbous moon. If you miss it, don’t fret - the next morning, March 27th, you can see the moon on the other side of Jupiter, just slightly below and to the left of the Roman King of the Gods. The morning after that, the moon, continuing its journey eastward through the sky, pairs up with the faint but quintessential Saturn, whose spectacular ring system makes it a favorite of just about every-one’s - though you’ll need a telescope to see that particular detail. Look for Saturn just below and to the left of the moon before sunrise on March 28th, while on the 29th, the moon has slipped past Saturn and now travels the pre-dawn skies to the left of the distant ringed wan-derer….
Enjoy all the night sky has to offer - and remember, KEEP LOOKING UP!
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