This week, look for light brightening the dark night. From the Full “Worm Moon” to evening zodiacal light, here are your highlights of the week.
Monday, March 9 at 17:48 GMT — Full Worm Moon
The March Full Moon, known as the Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Sap Moon or Lenten Moon, always shines in or near the stars of Leo. Full Moons always rise in the east as the sun sets, and set in the west at sunrise. When fully illuminated, the Moon’s geology is enhanced, especially the contrast between the ancient cratered highlands and the younger smoother maria.
This Full Moon occurs half a day before perigee, the point in the Moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth, generating high tides worldwide and making this the largest and brightest Full Moon of 2020 — the first of three consecutive Supermoons.
For more on Supermoons, see Chris Vaughan’s article on March 9’s Supermoon.
Tuesday, March 10 to Tuesday, March 24, after evening twilight — Evening Zodiacal light
For about an hour after dusk during the two-week period preceding the new Moon on March 24, northern hemisphere observers can look west-southwest for a broad wedge of faint light rising from the horizon. It will be below Venus and centered on the ecliptic (green line). This is the zodiacal light — reflected sunlight from interplanetary particles of matter concentrated in the plane of the solar system. You will need to observe from a location without light pollution. Don’t confuse the zodiacal light with the brighter Milky Way to the northwest. Observers in the southern hemisphere can see the zodiacal light in the eastern pre-dawn sky starting around March 23.
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.