Seeing Stars with James Wooten: March 2012


March 16, 2012
124 Views

March 2012 features all five visible planets, visible at convenient evening hours!

Astronomy Day 2008

Venus continues to appear higher and higher in the sky each night, outshining everything but the Sun and the Moon.  Look for it in the west at dusk.  It is also still approaching Jupiter each night as March begins.  On the first few nights of March, Venus is just over 10 degrees below Jupiter in the west.  However, Venus continues to close that gap until March 13, Venus and Jupiter are side by side, with Venus on the right.  After that, Venus pulls away, appearing higher than Jupiter in the west at dusk.  Jupiter outshines everything in our sky except the Sun, the Moon, and Venus.  Venus and Jupiter thus make a spectacular pair in the west this month.

Mars has joined Jupiter and Venus as an evening object.  Face east at dusk and look for the brightest point of light in that direction.  Although not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, Mars has brightened enough to rival Sirius, the brightest star we ever see at night. On March 3, Earth passes between Mars and the Sun, putting Mars in our sky literally all night long (an alignment called opposition).

Mercury is ordinarily too close to the Sun to observe; only rarely is it far enough from the Sun to be still up after sundown.  Early March 2012 is one of those rare times, however.  During the first two weeks of March, look for Mercury low in the west at dusk, between Venus and the point of sunset.  Mercury is highest in the sky on March 5 and gets a little harder to see each day after that.

Saturn becomes a late evening object this month.  Look in the south southeast beginning at about 10:00 pm on March 1, and by 8:40 (just after twilight ends) on March 31.  Saturn is near the star Spica.  (From the Big Dipper’s handle, arc to Arcturus and speed on to Spica).

Big Dipper in a big sky

Brilliant winter stars continue to dominate the southern sky at dusk.  Orion, the Hunter, is almost due south.  His two dogs, represented by Sirius and Procyon, are to his left.  Above Orion is Taurus, the Bull with Aldebaran as its eye. Gemini, the Twins, are to Orion’s upper left.  Leo, the Lion, is rising in the east.

Below Sirius, just above the southern horizon, is a star second only to Sirius in brightness.  This is Canopus, which marks the keel (bottom) of the legendary ship Argo Navis.  Canopus is so far south, in fact, that most Americans never see it.  From the Gulf Coast, however, Canopus does rise.  February and March are the best months to see it at dusk.

Moon Phases in March 2012:

Full                               March 8, 3:41 am

Last Quarter                  March 14, 8:26 pm

New                              March 22, 9:38 am

1st Quarter                     March 30, 2:41 pm

At 12:13 am on Tuesday, March 20, the Sun is directly overhead at the equator.  This, then, is the vernal (spring) equinox, marking the official beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.  In the Southern Hemisphere, summer turns to fall.

Visit www.hmns.org for the latest planetarium schedule.

On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer.  If you’re there, listen for my announcement.

James
Authored By James Wooten

James is the Planetarium Astronomer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. He teaches students every school morning in the planetarium, and also answers astronomy questions from the public.

2 responses to “Seeing Stars with James Wooten: March 2012”

  1. Dana Simpson says:

    looking for informaion for Boy Scout’s if you have any programs for an over nighter to do a merit badge.

    Thank you
    Dana Simpson
    361-790-3678

  2. Caroline says:

    Hi Dana,

    The best place to look for Scouts info is here: http://www.hmns.org/?option=com_content&view=article&id=163&Itemid=170

    It has all the latest info on the Spring 2012 classes, including overnights.

    You can email scouts@hmns.org with any questions, as well.

    Thanks!
    Caroline

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Become An HMNS Member

With a membership level for everyone; Don't just read about it, see it.

View All Membership Levels

Editor's Picks May Educator How-To: Make a Roman Mosaic What’s The Splatter? The Science Behind Bug Guts on your Windshield. 5 Of The Rarest Objects On Display At HMNS Questions From A Perceptive Third Grader New Special Exhibition at HMNS – Vanishing Arts: Highlights from the Beasley-Hwang Collection Your Spring Break Guide for a Fossil-filled Visit to HMNS
Follow And Subscribe

Equally Interesting Posts




HMNS at Hermann Park

5555 Hermann Park Dr.
Houston,Texas 77030
(713) 639-4629


Get Directions Offering varies by location
HMNS at Sugar Land

13016 University Blvd.
Sugar Land, Texas 77479
(281) 313-2277


Get Directions Offering varies by location
George Observatory

21901 FM 762 Rd.
Needville, Texas 77461
(281) 242-3055

Hours
Tuesday - Saturday By Reservation
Saturdays 3:00PM - 10:00PM
Saturdays (DST) 3:00PM - 11:00PM
DST = Daylight Savings Time.
Please call for holiday hours. Entry to Brazos Bend State Park ends at 9:30 p.m. daily
Get Directions Offering varies by location

Stay in the know. Join our mailing list.