Every week, SkyNews publishes a list of key events in the Canadian sky in This Week’s Sky. This series gives you all the latest news in Solar System movements, including where the planets are in our sky and Moon phases. From eclipses to meteor showers, This Week’s Sky keeps you updated on the best in upcoming astronomical highlights.
Tuesday, March 22 – Zodiacal light (after dusk)
If you live in a location where the sky is free of light pollution, you can look for the zodiacal light, which will appear during the two weeks that precede the new Moon on Friday, April 1. After the evening twilight has disappeared, you’ll have about half an hour to check the western sky for a broad wedge of faint light extending upwards from the horizon and centred on the ecliptic below the Pleiades cluster. That glow is the zodiacal light, sunlight scattered from countless small dust particles that populate the plane of our Solar System. Recent studies point to Mars as a major contributor to the dust. Don’t confuse the zodiacal light with the winter Milky Way, which extends upwards from the southwestern evening horizon at this time of year.
For more on the zodiacal light, check out this article.
Wednesday, March 23 – Moon above Antares (midnight to dawn)
Between midnight and dawn on Wednesday, March 23, the waning gibbous Moon will shine near the bright, reddish star Antares, “the Rival of Mars” and the brightest star in Scorpius. Look for the duo positioned low in the southeastern sky during the wee hours of the night, and then partway up the southern sky before dawn. The Moon will be positioned several finger widths above (celestial north of) the star the entire time.
Friday, March 25 – Third quarter Moon (at 05:37 GMT)
The Moon will officially reach its third quarter phase at 1:37 a.m. EST or 05:37 GMT on Friday, March 25. At third (or last) quarter the Moon is half-illuminated, on its western, sunward side. It will rise around midnight, and then remain visible until it sets in the western daytime sky in late morning. Third quarter moons are positioned ahead of Earth in our trip around the Sun. About 3.5 hours later, Earth will occupy that same location in space. The week of dark, moonless evening skies that follow this phase are ideal for observing deep-sky targets.
Monday, March 28 – Old Moon meets Mars, Venus and Saturn (predawn)
A pretty sight will greet early risers on the morning of Monday, March 28, when the old, crescent Moon will be shining below the grouping of Mars, Venus, and Saturn in the southeastern sky. The grouping will make a fantastic photo opportunity, too. The Moon will be last to rise, just before 5:30 a.m. local time. Extremely bright Venus will dominate the scene at top left. The much fainter, yellowish dot of Saturn will sit two finger widths below Venus, and similarly bright, reddish Mars will shine nearly a palm’s width off to their right. The Moon will pass a palm’s width below (celestial south of) those planets. It will steadily migrate from west to east as each time zone on Earth gets the chance to enjoy the show.
Chris Vaughan is a science writer, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you can follow him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He can also bring his Digital Starlab portable inflatable planetarium to your school or other daytime or evening event. Contact him through AstroGeo.ca to tour the Universe together.