Friday, March 14
Saturday, March 15
And, you may know that if you follow the curve of the Dipper's handle out and around by a little more than a Dipper length, you'll arc to Arcturus, now rising in the east.
But did you know that if you follow the Pointers backward, you'll land in Leo?
Draw a line diagonally across the Dipper's bowl from where the handle is attached, continue far on, and you'll go to Gemini.
And look at the two stars forming the open top of the Dipper's bowl. Follow this line past the bowl's lip far across the sky, and you crash into Capella.
Sunday, March 16
Monday, March 17
Tuesday, March 18
Wednesday, March 19
And, anywhere from the Carolinas to Nova Scotia to Manitoba, it's also worth watching to see if Regulus might be occulted by a yet-unknown satellite of Erigone!
The International Occultation Timing Association is working up a big public observing campaign. See our article Regulus Occultation: Asteroid to Black Out a Bright Star, and IOTA's big public how-to site at occultations.org/Regulus2014.
Thursday, March 20
Friday, March 21
Saturday, March 22
Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
This is an outdoor nature hobby. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential guide to astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the little Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and once you know your way around, the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the beloved if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically (able to point with better than 0.2° repeatability, which means fairly heavy and expensive). As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their invaluable Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury (magnitude +0.1) is low above the east-southeast horizon a half hour before sunrise. Look for it 20° lower left of bright Venus. Binoculars will help.
Venus (magnitude –4.6) shines as the bright "Morning Star" before and during dawn; look southeast.
Mars (magnitude –0.9, in Virgo) rises soon after dark, a fiery blaze with fainter icy Spica 5° to its right. They're highest in the south around 3 a.m.
In a telescope Mars has grown to 13 arcseconds wide, almost as large as the 15.1″ it will attain when passing closest by Earth in mid-April. See the telescopic Mars map and observing guide in the March Sky & Telescope, page 50.
Jupiter, magnitude –2.3 in Gemini, dominates sky overhead at dusk (for mid-northern skywatchers), then sinks westward through the late evening and early morning hours. See our articles on observing Jupiter in the January Sky & Telescope or the briefer online introduction Jupiter: Big, Bright, and Beautiful.
Saturn (magnitude +0.3, in Libra) rises around 11 or midnight daylight saving time and is highest in the south before dawn begins. By then it's far left of Mars and Spica, and less far to the upper right of Mars-colored Antares.
Uranus and Neptune are lost behind the glare of the Sun.
"We may be little guys, but we don’t think small. It’s the courage of questions, of grasping our true circumstances, and not pretending we are at the center of it all, that is adulthood."
Ann Druyan, 2014
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