From jewel-like stellar nurseries to a giant fault line on the moon, the night sky offers impressive cosmic views this week.
Triple world lineup. A half hour after the sun sets on Monday, March 23, gaze toward the western sky for a beautiful diagonal lineup formed by three neighboring worlds in our solar system.
Highest and brightest is the crescent moon, followed below by Venus—the brightest starlike object in the entire sky—and finally, closest to the horizon, is ruddy Mars.
Moon bullish. By the next evening, Tuesday, March 24, the moon will park itself within the Hyades star cluster, which is nestled within the face of Taurus the Bull.
While the moon is no more than 1.25 light-seconds away, the stars that make up the Hyades association average some 147 light-years from Earth.
Bull’s eye winks out. Also on Tuesday night, lucky sky-watchers in Alaska and northwestern Canada get to witness the bright star Aldebaran, the red eye of Taurus, disappear behind the moon.
This occultation is part of a series that began in January and will conclude in September 2018. The series always begins in the far north, and it repeats itself every 18.6 years.
Check out a map and timetables of Tuesday’s lunar occultation of this bright star.
The lunar wall. The first quarter moon comes into view on Friday, March 27. It’s the best time of the month for those with small telescopes to view an amazing lunar feature called the lunar wall.
The fault line, which stretches 75 miles (120 kilometers) in length and is more than 1,300 feet (400 meters) deep, casts a distinct straight, dark line through your eyepiece. (Read more about lunar wonders.)
Moon meets clusters. The gibbous moon lies high in the southeastern sky after nightfall on Sunday, March 29, and points the way to not only Jupiter but also the open star cluster Messier 67 (M67) and the nearby Beehive cluster.
Shining at magnitude 6.9, the M67 grouping consists of a few hundred stars that sit 3,000 light-years from Earth. Yet it remains an easy target for binoculars and small backyard telescopes.