Starstruck

5 Sky Events This Week: Moon Confers With a Jovian Giant and a Celestial Maiden

Stargazers will also get the chance to see the blue-green dot of distant Uranus.
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This simulated orbital view shows Uranus floating in front of the backdrop of the Milky Way.


The moon moves into the late evening skies this week and, to the delight of backyard astronomers, pays a visit to some of the brightest destinations in the solar system and beyond.

Moon and Jupiter. As night falls on Monday, March 2, sky-watchers can check out the waxing gibbous moon as it pairs up with the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter.

The cosmic duo will appear less than six degrees apart in the sky—slightly more than the width of your three middle fingers when held at arm's length.

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The gibbous moon will meet up with the king of all planets, Jupiter, on Monday evening.


Jovian eclipse. Also that evening, those with backyard telescopes can see Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, as it briefly hides its fellow moon Io from 11:06 to 11:11 p.m. EST.

Watch carefully. During the height of the eclipse, the combined light of the two moons will dim noticeably, by just over a half magnitude.

Lion's Heart. By the next evening, Tuesday, March 3, the moon will pay a visit with the heart of the constellation Leo, the Lion.

Earth's natural satellite will appear in close conjunction—separated by only four degrees—with the bright star Regulus, located 79 light-years away.

It is amazing to the think that the light by which we see this star tonight began its journey to Earth the same year that Franklin D. Roosevelt won his second term as president of the United States, Margaret Mitchell published Gone with the Wind, and the Spanish civil war broke out.

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This sky chart shows the moon in conjunction with the brightest star in the constellation Leo, the Lion, late Tuesday night.


Green Giant. North Americans can attempt a great observing challenge by spotting Uranus as darkness sets in on Wednesday, March 4.

The distant planet will appear as a tiny fifth-magnitude, pale blue-green dot less than five degrees below superbright Venus.

Eagle-eyed observers who are under very dark, pristine skies should be able to see this icy giant, but your best bet to view the seventh planet from the sun is to use binoculars.

Moon and the Maiden. Near midnight on Sunday, March 8, look for the waning gibbous moon hanging low in the northeast sky, next to the blue-white stellar beacon Spica in the zodiacal constellation Virgo.

The lead star, 250-light-years away, will appear to be separated from the moon by less than four degrees, making for an eye-catching pairing, even from light-polluted cities.

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Near midnight on Sunday, the moon pairs up with Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, the maiden.


Spica is usually quite easy to find for Northern Hemisphere sky-watchers by using the handle of the Big Dipper to point the way. The very distinctive bowl-and-handle star formation is visible to the moon's upper left.

Happy hunting!

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter, Facebook, and his website.

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