MANITOBA SKIES – March 2017
The brightest planet, Venus, still dominates the western sky after sunset, blazing brighter than anything else in the sky other than the Sun and Moon. Throughout March, Venus dives lower each night, passing nearly between us and the Sun on March 25th. What is the last date that you can still see it above the horizon?
As Venus disappears, Mercury starts to rise up above the horizon in the evening sky. A good view occurs on March 27th and 28th, when the thin crescent moon is nearby.
Mars is above and to the left of Venus, but it is much fainter. You may notice Mars’ distinctly reddish tinge compared with Venus’ blazing white colour.
Jupiter rises about 10 p.m. in the east-southeast, and by dawn is high in the southern sky. Just below it is the bright star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo. Even a pair of binoculars will reveal Jupiter’s largest moons – these appear as tiny “stars” in a line on one or both sides of the planet. The moons change their positions nightly, and sometimes one or more are invisible as they are either in front of or behind the giant planet’s disk.
Saturn rises about 4AM but remains low in the southwestern sky before dawn. You’ll need a telescope to see the rings, but even telescopic views aren’t great this month, the thicker air near the horizon muddies the view. Wait a few months and you’ll be rewarded with a much better sight.
To see where things are in the night sky, visit Heavens-Above’s excellent Sky Chart page for Winnipeg, and adjust the times and dates for when you will be observing. For other locations, visit the Settings page and choose the nearest city or town.
Sky Events – March 2017
All times below are given in Central Standard Time (CST) or Central Daylight Time (CDT), the local time zone for all of Manitoba. On March 12th we set our clocks one hour forward and enter Daylight Savings Time in Manitoba.
5 Mar 2017 (evening): First Quarter Moon.
12 Mar 2017 (all night): Full Moon.
12 Mar 2017 (a.m.): Daylight Savings Time begins – set your clocks forward one hour.
14 Mar 2017 (all night): Moon, Jupiter and Spica make a nice triangle – watch throughout the night to see the Moon’s relative motion. The ‘triangle’ will get longer as the night goes on as the Moon moves slowly eastwards relative to the much more distant Jupiter and even-more-distant Spica.
20 Mar 2017 (5:29 a.m. CDT): The Vernal Equinox signals the beginning of Spring in the northern hemisphere. Also, the Last Quarter Moon is near Saturn in the pre-dawn sky.
25 Mar 2017: The planet Venus swings between Earth and the Sun in its orbit, a point called inferior conjunction. Venus actually passes slightly above the sun as seen from Earth. it will soon become visible on the flip side of its orbit in the morning sky.
25 Mar 2017: Spring Break in Manitoba signals a busy week at the Manitoba Museum! Visit www.manitobamuseum.ca for details on all the new programs and activities.
27 Mar 2017: New Moon.
28 Mar 2017 (evening): A very thin crescent moon might be glimpsed very low on the western horizon. Just above it is Mercury.
29 Mar 2017 (evening): The thin crescent moon forms a nice broad triangle with Mercury (to the right) and Mars (above).
To spot the International Space Station as it passes over southern Manitoba, visit Heavens-Above.com which calculates times and directions for you.