This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Here is what’s happening in the skies of southern California:
Daylight Saving Time returns on Sunday morning, March 8. On that morning, 1:59 a.m., PST, will be followed by 3:00 a.m., PDT. The times of events reported in this week’s Sky Report are corrected accordingly.
This month’s full moon, called the Full Snow moon, occurs on Thursday morning, just over 12 hours after the moon passes through the distant point of its elliptical orbit from Earth, the moon’s apogee. The moon will appear about as small as it ever does when it sets at on Thursday morning and when it rises on Thursday night. From Griffith Observatory, moonrise will occur over the eastern horizon at 6:08 p.m. In recent years, the media has called attention to full moons occurring when the full moon is closest to the earth, at perigee, and has called these full moons “Super Moons”. Just to be fair, Griffith Observatory proposes that the apogee full moon be given equal billing–as the “Mini Moon”. The apparent diameter of a Super Moon is 17-percent greater than a Mini Moon, the same difference as the diameter of a quarter and a nickel. Are you able to notice the size extremes of different full moons?
The brightest planet, Venus, and fainter Mars, are in the west-southwest as darkness falls. Mars is below Venus, and the separation between the planets grows from 5 to 8 degrees this week. On Wednesday, March 4, use binoculars to find Uranus less than 1 degree below Venus. Although Uranus should be obvious in binoculars, Venus outshines it by a factor of almost 9,000 times.
Brilliant Jupiter, in Cancer the Crab, is high in the east as darkness falls, and crosses the meridian at 9:45 p.m. The mutual events of Jupiter’s Galilean moons continue this week, and are fascinating to watch with any telescope. There will be a spectacular eclipse of Ganymede caused by the shadow of Europa between 10:34 and 10:46 p.m., PST on Thursday the 5th. A list of the best of Jupiter’s mutual satellite events can be found on our special web page. Jupiter is currently one of the brightest objects featured through the public telescopes at Griffith Observatory.
Saturn, the ringed planet, is in Scorpius the Scorpion, and is 8 degrees north of the orange star Antares of Scorpius. Look for Saturn after it rises above the east-southeast horizon shortly before midnight, PST, or shortly before 1:00 a.m., PDT. Saturn is highest in the south at the start of dawn. The planet will be visible in the early evening sky starting in May.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is closing in on the main asteroid belt’s largest object, the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn will be gravitationally captured by Ceres on Friday, March 6, and will begin its close-up studies of Ceres in April.
The International Space Station will appear highest over Los Angeles on Monday morning, March 9. The ISS will cross the sky from southwest to northeast between 6:30 and 6:36 a.m., PDT. The brilliant satellite is highest at 6:33 a.m., when it is 73 degrees above the southeast horizon.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, March 28.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.