April 18, 2024

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Skywatch: Jupiter and Venus dance, and spring arrives, and with it a farewell

Skywatch: Jupiter and Venus dance, and spring arrives, and with it a farewell

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Tonight, turn off your TV. Walk outside just after dusk: you’ll see planets Jupiter And Venus It begins to appear in the early evening sky in the southwest.

Over the next few nights, notice how those planets seem to grow closer, like long-lost lovers racing toward each other in an airport terminal, only in slow motion. From our terrestrial perspective, they’re embracing — or, in astronomy parlance, March 2, according to the US Naval Observatory. Then they pass each other.

The most charming and shining being is LandAccording to the observatory, Venus is next to it, which can be seen at -3.9 degrees. While the gas giant Jupiter is very far away, we see it at magnitude -2.1, which is bright enough to see from urban, light-polluted locations.

Throughout the month of March, Jupiter falls in the western sky. For a while, the planet will hide near sun – but it appears in late spring as the morning planet.

Venus dazzles western telescopes for the remainder of spring through mid-summer.

new month moon Shows March 21st. Look for a sliver of the young moon as it skates past Jupiter on March 22 on the western horizon, in the evening, and then passes Venus on February 23-24.

Find Mars High in the southern sky in the constellation the Bull. This little red dot is bright at a value of zero. Look for it above the big constellation Orion. The first quarter moon will pass the Red Planet on February 27-28. A month later, the crescent moon approached Mars on March 26-27, then speeded off on March 28.

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The winter season recedes in favor of emerging trees, such as Spring equinox It arrives March 20 at 5:24 p.m., according to the observatory. This marks the astronomical beginning of spring. Effectively, this is when the sun appears to be crossing into the northern hemisphere, but remember, in physical reality, the sun remains stationary. We here on planet Earth are the ones on the move.

But before spring, as the dark days of winter fade, we change our clocks again: On Sunday, March 12 at 2 a.m., the clocks must officially shift by an hour to daylight saving time.

The month of March begins in Washington with 11 hours and 20 minutes of daylight, according to the Observatory, and the month ends on March 31, and we fall into 12 hours and 36 minutes of daylight.

Thanks for the readers. It has been a pleasure to be your journalistic tour guide to heavenly backyards, as I am now ending a few decades of writing this column.

This endeavor started on the Style Plus page the other day, and I want to thank the original editors, Peggy Hackman and Bill Smart, for their trust. Thanks to my current, always nice editors Jane Vines and Ann Bartlett.

Thank you, astronomer Jeff Chester of the Naval Observatory, for your generosity and patience in explaining celestial mechanics and for keeping me on the path to cosmic accuracy.

As they did millions of years ago, our skies are constantly changing. Please enjoy it. While the Roman poet Virgil gets the original credit for coining the phrase—for the stars—please indulge in his own Latin: Ad astra.

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* March 11 – Enjoy the late winter skies at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly. View the sky through telescopes provided by members of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club. Meeting at the museum bus stop, 6:30-8:30 p.m airandspace.si.edu.

* March 11 – “Stars in Accretion Disks Orbiting Black Holes,” a talk given by Alex Dittmann, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, at the National Capital Astronomers Meeting. 7:30 p.m. online only. To access, visit Capitalasteronomers.org.

* March 12 – If astronomy is your dream field, keep your distance. Astronomer Pete Gural explains how to measure parsecs and astronomical units so you can talk about light years. At the Astronomy Club of Northern Virginia meeting, Room 3301, Exploration Hall, George Mason University. 7:30 p.m. For details or to attend virtually: novac.com.

* March 17 – “Comets, Centaurs, and Trans-Neptune Objects,” a lecture by Walter Harris of the University of Arizona. It is hosted by PSW, formerly known as the Philosophical Society of Washington. 8 p.m. YouTube channel: PSW Science. 8 p.m. Personal details: pswscience.com.

* March 18 – “Astronomy for Everyone” at Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier County, with telescopes provided by members of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club. 6:30-9:30 p.m. GPS: 11012 Edmonds Lane, Delaplane, Va., 20144. Info: novac.com. Park fee: $10.

* March 30 – “Earth-Based Isotopes in Support of Space Missions,” Lecture by Mark Chebanek of the Office of the Chief Health and Medical Officer at NASA. 8 p.m. National Air and Space Museum in the National Mall. the details: airandspace.si.edu. To attend in person or online, register at tinyurl.com/bdekx49m.

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