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 8 – Crescent Moon and Ceres in Taurus (evening)
In the western sky on Tuesday evening, March 8, the nearly half-illuminated Moon will shine among the stars of Taurus, the Bull. The prominent Pleiades star cluster will be positioned several finger widths to the Moon’s right (celestial northwest) and the bright, orange star Aldebaran will appear twice as far on the Moon’s upper left. To better see the Pleiades’ stars, keep the Moon beyond the left side of your binoculars’ field of view (green circle). Over several hours, the orbital motion of the Moon (green line) will lift it higher compared to the surrounding stars and towards the magnitude 8.8 minor planet Ceres. During a period around 08:45 UTC on Wednesday, March 9, observers in western and northern Australia, eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, northern Melanesia, Micronesia, and northern Polynesia (except Hawaii) can see the Moon occult Ceres.
Thursday, March 10 – First quarter Moon (at 10:45 UTC)
When the Moon completes the first quarter of its orbit around Earth at 5:45 a.m. EST (or 10:45 UTC) on Thursday, March 10, the relative positions of the Earth, Sun and Moon will cause us to see our natural satellite half-illuminated on its eastern side. While at first quarter, the Moon always rises around noon and sets around midnight, allowing it to be seen in the afternoon daytime sky, too. The evenings surrounding first quarter are the best for viewing the lunar terrain when it is dramatically lit by low-angled sunlight.
Saturday, March 12 – The Lunar Straight Wall (evening)
On Saturday evening, March 12, the pole-to-pole terminator that divides the lit and dark hemispheres of the waxing gibbous Moon, will fall to the left (or lunar west) of Rupes Recta, also known as the Lunar Straight Wall. The rupes, Latin for “cliff”, is a north-south aligned fault scarp that extends for 110 kilometres across the southeastern part of Mare Nubium, which sits in the lower third of the Moon’s Earth-facing hemisphere. The wall, which is visible in good binoculars and backyard telescopes, is most prominent a day or two after first quarter, and also the days before last quarter. For reference, the very bright crater Tycho is located due south of the Straight Wall.
Sunday, March 13 – Daylight Saving Time begins (at 2 a.m.)
For jurisdictions that adopt Daylight Saving Time (DST), clocks should be set forward by one hour at 2 a.m. local time on Sunday, March 13. For stargazers, the time change, and the fact that sunset occurs 1 minute later each day near the March equinox, will mean that dark-sky observing cannot commence until much later in the evening – possibly after the bedtime of junior astronomers. The difference from local time to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and the astronomers’ Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), will decrease by one hour when DST is in effect. Daylight Saving Time will end on November 6, 2022.
Sunday, March 13 – Mare Imbrium’s Golden Handle (all night)
On Sunday night, March 13, the terminator on the waxing gibbous moon will fall west of Sinus Iridum, the Bay of Rainbows. The circular, 249-kilometre diameter feature is a large impact crater that was flooded by the same basalts that filled the much larger Mare Imbrium to its east, forming a rounded “handle” on the western edge of that mare. The “Golden Handle” effect is produced when sunlight strikes the prominent Montes Jura mountain range surrounding Sinus Iridum on the north and west. Sinus Iridum is almost craterless, but hosts a set of northeast-oriented wrinkle ridges that are revealed at this phase.
Monday, March 14 – Moon nears the Beehive (before dawn)
In the hours between midnight and dawn on Monday morning, March 14, look in the western sky for the waxing gibbous Moon shining to the left (or celestial northeast) of the huge open star cluster in Cancer known as the Beehive, Praesepe and Messier 44. The Moon and the cluster will be close enough to share the field of binoculars (green circle), but you’ll see more of the “bees” if you tuck the Moon just out of sight on the right.
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.