Sky, Jupiter, March 2021 final
Vesta let’s begin by taking a look at the planets and we’ll start with the planet mars. We talked at the end of february about how mars was making a close approach to the pleiades star cluster and that close approach continues at the beginning of march. Here we are looking towards the south west on the 1st of march, at around 8 o’clock, you can see the prominent constellation of orion it’s, one of the easiest constellations to pick out of the night sky. If you can find orion look for the asterism of orion’s belt and you can use that to point to the constellation of taurus, where mars is currently hanging out by following the line of the belt stars of orion. All the way up to aldebaran, which is a red giant, star known as the angry eye of the bull in taurus, and then follow that a bit further and you reach the pleiades star cluster and also at the moment, the planet mars. If we take a look at how that progresses over the first few days of march, so here we are in the first second third, fourth um so mars will make its closest approach to the pleiades on the evening of the third morning of the fourth of march. These two objects, together in a pair of binoculars, will look really good. You should be able to get them into the same field of view um of a pair of binoculars and see how many of the stars you can make out in the pleiades see if you can make out the orangey colour of mars, see if you can count Some of the stars in the pleiades they’re known as the seven sisters, and but when you take a look at them through a pair of binoculars, you’ll notice that there are more than seven stars there mars at the moment, is not as well placed for observing as It was at the end of last year when it was at opposition.
Its disk appears smaller than it did then. So it is a bit harder to pick out the features. If you do have a small telescope, though it’s always still worth having a look at the planet through your telescope to see if you can spot anything on the surface any of these darker and lighter patches on the surface um, you may be able to see, depending On the conditions and the size of your telescope as well taking a look at the other planets, the other bright planets are all quite close to the sun at the moment, so not best place for observing. If you would like to catch a glimpse of mercury, jupiter or saturn, you need to look early in the morning just before sunrise to see. If you can catch a glimpse of them on the southeast horizon, you will need a nice flat horizon to be able to see them on the 9th of march they’re joined by the moon. So i thought we would take a look at that so i’m, going to go all the way back to around 20 to 6 in the morning and let’s just take a look in the southeast and you can see the moon here just peeking above the horizon and If we just move time onwards a little bit, you can see saturn, jupiter and mercury rising as well. So this is just before sunrise. If you are going to go out and take a look at this collection of three planets on the moon, then do be careful that you’re not trying to observe with any binoculars or telescope or any sorts of equipment once the sun is up.
So just take care to make sure that the sun hasn’t risen if you’re looking in that direction with any equipment and it’s also important not to look at the sun with your naked eye as well. If we take a look at the moon now, new moon for march occurs on the 13th and full moon on the 28th. Last month we looked at the first few days after new moon, so i thought i’d pick that up again this month and we’ll have a look from around day, five, so the 18th of march. So here we are on the 18th and we’re gon na look in the early evening, um just not too long after sunset and find the five day old crescent moon zoom in so you can see that the five day old crescent moon is um nicely placed. Actually, quite close to mars and the pleiades that we were talking about earlier um in the constellation of taurus um. And if we go to the 19th, you can see that the moon, mars uh and the pleiades and aldebaran all nicely close together. So um nice opportunity to see all of those together and perhaps take some photos if you’ve got a camera handy, so let’s just go back to the 18th. So this is a moon around five days old um and you might still be able to make out a little bit of earth shine on the unlit side of the moon. You can see the whole of the sea of crises now and also you can see the whole of the sea of fertility and the sea of tranquility and the sea of nectar are also coming into view.
So you’ve got sea of crises here, sea of fertility here um and then the sea of tranquility is here so you’ve got that coming into view. So if you explore along the terminator you’ll, be able to explore some of what’s happening in the sea of tranquility and also again same thing here with the sea of nectar. If we move on a bit so day, six now and day, seven, the rest of the sea of tranquility then is revealed along with the sea of serenity as well sitting just next to it. Um. If you have a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, then you can explore this area with those and as we move towards day eight, you can see that the upper nine mountain range um gets revealed as well. Um that sits between the sea of serenity and the sea of showers, and if you have a pair of binoculars, this area is really quite spectacular. So you can explore those mountain ranges with your binoculars or your small telescope see how they appear to change as the moon’s terminator moves along that area. Our constellation of the month this month is leo the lion, a spring constellation best viewed in march april and may, and it gets better towards the end of march. The best way to find leo is to use the big dipper as a pointer, so it’s always handy when we can do that so find the big dipper. Here we go in ursa, major and we’ve talked before about how you can use these two stars.
On the end of the big dipper as a pointer to get to the pole, star polaris, if you use those two but go the other way, they will lead you to the constellation of leo. And if we take a closer look leo, has this very prominent asterism here, which is known as the sickle representing the lion’s head, also looks a bit like a backwards question mark. So if you find that, then that will help you to find the rest of the constellation. The brightest star in leo is called regulus, and that is the star that is considered to be the beating heart of the lion and the babylonians referred to it as the star that stands on the lion’s breast. If we put the art on, you can see um how the lion is depicted in greek mythology. Leo was the nemean lion, seemingly completely indestructible until he was finally beaten by hercules in one of his 12 labors? One of the reasons i chose the constellation of leo as our constellation of the month this month is because it’s currently home to the asteroid, vesta and vesta, is the brightest asteroid in the solar system and the second largest body in the asteroid belt after the dwarf Planet series and it’s, currently at opposition and vesta when it reaches opposition, it occasionally is visible to the naked eye, and its current magnitude is about 5.9, which makes it just on the very limit of naked eye visibility.
So you could have a go at spotting vesta with your naked eye. If you are in a nice dark site – and you have really good vision, if you can’t spot it with your naked eye, you should certainly be able to get it with a pair of binoculars and it will just appear like a faint star. So you might not be sure whether you have actually captured vesta or not, and one way to be sure is to plot its position over the course of a few nights, and it will appear to move against the background stars. So let’s just have a go at that and see what happens um to esta over the course of a few nights. Okay, here we go so you can see vesta moving and actually you can see. We’Ve we’ve ended up on the 26th of march, and the moon is now in the way and that’s not a good time to look for a faint object in the night sky when the moon is close by with all of its light. So let’s go to a time away from the moon, so here we are on the 10th of march and the moon is not in the way and if we track festa over the course of a few nights, you can see how it moves against the background stars. It will be the brightest thing in this region, so if you can find a an object in this area of sky um, that appears to be a star then and it’s the brightest thing nearby, then it’s, probably vesta um, and you could sketch out the constellation of Leo and go out night after night, every time you’ve got a clear night go out and plot the position of the object, you think is vesta and see if you can see that path through the constellation of leo.
The other thing you can do is take some photographs over the course of a few nights and then do a comparison between the photographs and see if you can spot vesta moving from photograph to photograph. Let’S finish by taking a look at the iss as always. So there are some nice evening passes of the iss towards the end of the month. Um one is on the 22nd of march, which is where we happen to be um at around one minute past eight in the evening, so let’s see if we can see that one so that’s just start time going there, you go so there’s the iss coming over Um so that’s one minute past eight on the 22nd of march, and there are lots of other opportunities to see the iss this month as well um.