This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
Comet PANSTARRS (C/2011 L4) continues to put on a good show through binoculars, according to observers south of the equator. The still- brightening comet will swing into our evening sky 30 minutes after sunset starting about March 6, although it may continue to be a challenge to find before Saturday, March 9. Observing information, including when it may be seen from Griffith Observatory, is posted on a special Griffith Observatory Web page. The comet and how you can watch it will be one of the topics discussed at this week’s All Space Considered in Griffith Observatory’s Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 1.
The waning moon rises later each night as the week proceeds. Moonrise advances from 10:05 p.m. on February 27th to 2:18 a.m. on March 6th. The moon’s phase changes from gibbous to last quarter on the 4th, then is crescent though the 6th.
Jupiter shines brilliantly in Taurus the Bull, and is nearly overhead as darkness falls. Use binoculars to see Jupiter’s four largest moons clustered tightly in moving patterns around the planet. A telescope will show Jupiter’s banded cloud patterns. Jupiter sets in the west-northwest at about 12:30 a.m.
The ringed planet, Saturn, appears as a bright golden star in the southeast after it rises at about 10:20 p.m. The best time to see it is 3:50 a.m., when it is at its highest, 43 degrees above the southern horizon. The northern face of Saturn’s ring system is visible through a telescope and is tilted 19 degrees in our direction. The moon passes below Saturn on Saturday morning, March 2.
The International Space Station will make its highest pass of the week over Los Angeles on Wednesday, February 27 between 6:21 and 6:28 p.m., P.S.T. crossing the sky from northwest to southeast. The space station will appear highest, nearly overhead, at 6:25 p.m. Another chance to see the ISS will come on Friday, March 1, only this time the space station may be pursued by a SpaceX Dragon capsule, an unpiloted, automated craft built in Hawthorne California, under contract with NASA to deliver thousands of pounds of supplies to the crew of the ISS. If Dragon launches from Florida on time (on March 1 at 7:10 a.m., P.S.T), the capsule may be seen close to the ISS when, from Los Angeles, the ISS crosses the sky from west-northwest to south-southeast between 6:17 and 6:23 p.m., P.S.T. The spacecraft will appear as high as 33 degrees over the southwest horizon at 6:20 p.m.
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 Wednesday-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 between 2:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 16th.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.