2018-3-1 : What’s Up in the Sky in March 2018?

Both Venus and Mercury play the part of “evening stars” this month.

At the beginning of the month they appear low on the western horizon
over the Sooke Hills.

The moon itself joins the pair from March 18th through the 20th. The moon skims by the Pleiades star cluster and Taurus’s bright red star Aldebaran
on the next few evenings, March 21 through the 23rd.

Jupiter, king of the planets, rises over Mount Baker just before midnight this month, and earlier by month end. Even through the smallest telescope or average binoculars,  you should see the 4 Galilean moons, Europa, Io, Callisto and Ganymede.

The March morning sky offers dazzling views of Mars and Saturn all month long. Through a telescope, you can almost make out some of the surface
features on Mars. Look a little farther into Mars’ future and circle May 5th with a red marker. When NASA’s InSight spacecraft launches for its 6 month
journey to the red planet, Mars will be easily visible to your unaided eye. Keep watching Mars as it travels closer to Earth.

It will be closest in late July, when the red planet will appear larger in apparent diameter than it has since 2003!

You are in for a real treat if you can get away to a dark sky location (like Cattle Point Star Park) on a moonless night this month — the Zodiacal Light
and the Milky Way intersect! The Zodiacal light is a faint triangular glow seen from a dark sky just after sunset in the spring or just before sunrise in the fall.
The more familiar Milky Way is one of the spiral arms of our galaxy. What we’re seeing with the Zodiacal light, is sunlight reflecting off dust grains that circle the Sun in the inner solar system. These dust grains journey across our sky in the ecliptic, the same plane as the moon and the planets, what we call here in the Salish Sea Bioregion the “Salish Walk of the Planets”.

I’d like to finish by highly recommending a palm size computer device called ISS-ABOVE.

“My most recent obsession is this gizmo called ISS-Above… I watch it all day. I leave it on more than is reasonable. It’s just a beautiful thing.”
— Bill Nye, CEO, The Planetary Society – Wall Street Journal, Nov 2014

I echo Bill Nye’s comments. The hand sized computer connects to a TV allowing you to view LIVE HD video from the experimental cameras on board the ISS. Loads of information provided on your TV especially on when the next pass over your Oak Bay home is expected. The “real-time” HD video of the Earth below is wonderful.

I was talking to them in Los Angeles telling them how much I liked it. They kindly gave me a promo code of “wesmith” that will drop the price of the ISS-Above by 10% to any Oak Bay News readers. The device is the amazing Raspberry Pi computer – there are hundreds of projects and experiments your grandchildren can do with this little computer that is sweeping the educational world. Well worth $135.

You can find out about all of NASA’s missions, including Insight, at: www.nasa.gov
ISS-Above : https://www.facebook.com/ISSAbove/

Bill Smith

Oak Bay, February 2018

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