March is here and spring is just around the corner. We will soon be saying goodbye to some of our favorite winter constellations, but there are still many great opportunities to view these easily identifiable groups of stars. Also March will offer excellent opportunities to view three planets in both the early evening and morning skies.
The best time viewing is usually at least an hour after sunset to an hour before sunrise. Sunset in Battle Creek is at 6:31 PM on March 1st and will shift ahead one hour on the 10th due to the return to Daylight Saving Time. By the end of March our sunset will be all the way to 8:06 PM! Sunrise starts the month off at 7:16 AM and will be at 7:25 AM by month’s end.
The moon will be new on March 11th and our next full moon, dubbed the “Worm Moon”, will be on March 27th.
The zodiac constellations Gemini and Cancer will dominate our early evening skies. Gemini is easily identifiable by its twin stars Castor and Pollox. Unfortunately the stars in Cancer are the faintest in the entire zodiac and may be difficult to view in town with light pollution. Orion, with its distinctive belt of three stars, is one of the easiest constellations to identify. It is gradually moving west but can still be found high on the horizon. Follow the belt straight up to Aldeberan, the orange bulls eye of Taurus, and keep going to find the beautiful seven sisters of the Pleiades. Follow the belt down to Canis Major and its bright star Sirius. See if you can find the Winter Triangle, an almost equilateral triangle, made by Sirius, Betelguese in Orion, and Procyon in Canis Minor. These are three of the top ten brightest stars visible in the Northern Hemisphere.
The planet Jupiter is still very bright near Taurus. It was in opposition, or closest to the Earth, in December. We are now moving moving away from Jupiter in our orbit around the sun, but will still be very visible for the next few months as it gradually moves to the west each night. Saturn rises around 11 PM along with Libra and is visible through sunrise. Mercury can still be seen very low on western horizon at twilight but will be gone by the early week. Venus and Mars are both currently obscured by the sun.
If you want to learn more about the stars and planets please visit us at Kingman Museum. The planetarium features two different shows each Saturday and Sunday afternoon that include a star talk with opportunities for question and answer. Please visit kingmanmuseum.org for more information or “Like” or Facebook page at facebook.com/KingmanMuseum for updates on programs and special events.