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 29 – Venus nearest Saturn (predawn)
Although the crescent Moon will have moved away from them after 24 hours, the gathering of the three bright planets Venus, Saturn and Mars in the southeastern pre-dawn sky will continue on Tuesday, March 29. This morning, Saturn and Venus will reach their minimum separation from one another of 2.2 degrees — more than close enough to see them together in binoculars (green circle), which might reveal Venus’ half-Moon shape and Saturn’s elongated dot. Venus’ swing sunward will increase its distance from Saturn and Mars on each subsequent morning.
Wednesday, March 30 – Old Moon and Jupiter (predawn)
On Wednesday morning, March 30, the very slim crescent of the old Moon hop to sit a palm’s width to the lower right (or 5.5 degrees to the celestial southwest) of Jupiter’s bright dot. At mid-northern latitudes, the duo will be just above the eastern horizon around 6:30 a.m. local time and barely visible amidst the twilight glow. Observers in the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere, where the ecliptic will be vertical, will see them easily. There, the Moon will be positioned to Jupiter’s upper right.
Friday, April 1 – New Moon (at 06:24 UTC)
On Friday, April 1 at 2:24 a.m. EDT or 06:24 UTC, the Moon will officially reach its new Moon phase. At that time our natural satellite will be located in Cetus, and approximately 4 degrees south of the Sun. While at its new phase, the Moon is travelling between Earth and the Sun. Since sunlight can only shine on the far side of the Moon, and the Moon is in the same region of the sky as the Sun, it becomes completely hidden from view from anywhere on Earth for about a day. After the new Moon phase Earth’s celestial night-light will return to shine as a crescent in the western evening sky.
Saturday, April 2 – See four bright planets (pre-dawn)
Throughout April, four bright planets will be shining in the southeastern sky before sunrise. On the mornings surrounding Saturday, April 2, extremely bright Venus will rise shortly before 5 a.m. local time, accompanied by the fainter, yellow dot of Saturn positioned several finger widths to its right (or 4.7 degrees to the celestial west). Reddish Mars will shine a thumb’s width beyond that – almost close enough for the trio to share the view in binoculars. The planets will climb higher as the sky brightens towards 6 a.m. local time, with Venus visible longer than the others. Around that time, bright Jupiter will rise about 2.4 fist diameters to Venus’ lower left. Observers located close to the tropics will see Jupiter more easily.
Sunday, April 3 – Crescent Moon passes Uranus (early evening)
In the western sky after dusk on Sunday, April 3, the young crescent Moon will pass binoculars-close (green circle) to the faint, magnitude 5.85 planet Uranus. In the Eastern Time Zone look for Uranus’ blue-green dot positioned two finger widths below, and slightly to the right (or 2 degrees to the celestial west) of the Moon. In more westerly time zones their separation will be greater. Hours earlier, observers in the Côte d’Ivoire region of Africa can see the Moon occult Uranus around 19:30 UTC.
Monday, April 4 – Mars swings by Saturn (pre-dawn)
On Monday, April 4, in the lower part of the east-southeastern sky before dawn, the faster orbital motion of reddish Mars will see it overtake yellowish Saturn in a very close conjunction, with much brighter Venus gleaming a palm’s width to their left. Although binoculars (green circle) will show Mars and Saturn easily all week, the two planets will be cosy enough to share the eyepiece in a backyard telescope from Sunday to Wednesday. On Monday, Mars will be posed less than a finger’s width to the right (or only half a degree to the celestial southwest) of Saturn. At closest approach on Tuesday morning, Mars will move closer and drop below Saturn (or 0.3 degrees to the ringed planet’s celestial southeast). Your telescope may flip and/or invert that arrangement.
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.