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Manitoba Skies – March 2019


Contributed by Kevin Mogk, Science Content Creator

March will see the spring constellations take prominence in the evening sky and a number of planets can be caught in the early evening or pre dawn skies. Mars will be visible in the west after sunset; while Jupiter, Saturn and Venus will be visible in the east before sunrise. The Vernal Equinox will also take place on the 20th of March, and our clocks will “spring forward” to Central Daylight savings Time (CDT) on March 10th.

Springing Forward? Bring on the Coffee!!

As our calendar moves into March the long-awaited vernal equinox arrives along with its dreaded counterpart, Daylight Savings Time. At 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 10th, 2019, clocks across Manitoba and most of Canada will be set forward by an hour, causing us to lose an hour’s sleep.

In our modern electric world with 24-hour lighting-on-demand, the idea feels rather odd, but it is not a new idea and has shown up as a concept at different points in history. Benjamin Franklin suggest people in Paris get up earlier to to save on candles in the evening – the idea being that some of the sunlight hours of the very early morning are shifted to the evening.

For a local example, in Winnipeg during summer and without the hour change the Sun rises around 4 am and sets around 8 pm. By springing forward, the Sun now rises at 5 am and sets at 9 pm, moving an “extra” hour of light into the evening.

At its conception, Daylight Savings time was supposed to extend the working day, or allow people to enjoy more of the evening leisure hours with the sun still in the sky. It never really caught on until 1908 when Thunder Bay (then Port Arthur) became the first municipality in the world to enact a law to bring in daylight savings. A few other Canadian cities followed suit in the following years, but it wasn’t until Germany and Austria popularized the idea in 1916 that countries around the world adopted Daylight Savings.

With the use of modern lighting, many people (and governments) have called into question the need to jump back and forth. The change in time seems to have a measurable effect on everything from the number of people late for work to the number of car accidents. In Manitoba the question has come up again, with Bill 205, a private member’s bill before the Manitoba Legislature that seeks to keep Manitoba on Central Standard Time (CST) year-round. Now is the time to make your feelings on Daylight Savings Time known to your provincial MLA!

March 2019 Sky Events

March 1 (morning sky): The crescent moon will be near Saturn in the pre-dawn sky, low in the southeast before sunrise.

March 2 (morning sky):The crescent moon will be near Venus in the pre-dawn sky, low in the southeast before sunrise.

Looking southeast on the morning of March 2, 2019. Venus, the Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter form a broad line across the southern sky.

March 6: New Moon

March 9 (evening): Set your clocks ahead an hour before bed – Daylight Savings Time start at 2:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Note that your phone and even many alarm clocks do this automatically now – be careful you don’t “spring forward” twice!

March 11 (evening): The waxing crescent moon is near Mars in the evening sky.

March 12 (evening): The moon is moving through the Hyades star cluster, the well-known V-shaped face of Taurus the Bull. Over the course of the evening, you will notice the Moon slide past the stars of the cluster. This is caused by the Moon’s orbit around the Earth. (At the same time, the Moon and everything else in the sky will be moving towards the west as the Earth rotates.)

March 20 at 4:58 p.m. Central Daylight Time – the Vernal Equinox marks the official beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere (and autumn in the southern hemisphere). This is based on the earth’s orbit around the sun reaching an easily-measurably point, when the sun rises due east and sets due west. In practice, “spring” is not an astronomical phenomenon but a weather-related one, and so the weather often takes several weeks to catch up. This is why many ancient peoples defined the season not by the equinox and solstice, but by the mid-points between them.  Many of these ancient festivals survive today under different names: Groundhog’s Day and Hallowe’en, for example. By the way, the myth of balancing an egg on its end on the equinox is false.

March 21: Full Moon

March 27 (morning sky): The waning crescent Moon is to the right of the bright planet Jupiter. The pair rise in the southeastern sky about 4AM.

March 28 (morning sky): The Moon has slipped to the other side of Jupiter as it orbits the Earth, appearing to Jupiter’s left.