This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2021 March 27 – 2021 April 3
~by Curt Nason
The spring star is springing up in the east these evenings. Arcturus is the third or fourth brightest star in the sky and the second brightest we can see from New Brunswick. It is just a tad brighter than Vega, the summer star, which rises around 9:30 pm this week. The winter star, Sirius, sets after midnight and Capella, the autumn star, never sets in southern New Brunswick. The discrepancy over whether Arcturus is third or fourth brightest depends on how you define it. Alpha Centauri, in the southern hemisphere, appears brighter but it is a close double star – too close to split with the naked eye – and Arcturus is brighter than either but not both.
Arcturus anchors the constellation Boötes (bo-oh-teez) the Herdsman, and the star’s name means “bear driver.” Boötes is seen chasing the two bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, around the celestial North Pole. To many people the constellation resembles a tie, a kite or an ice cream cone. The head of the herdsman, at the tip of the constellation opposite Arcturus, is the star Nekkar, which sounds somewhat like necktie.
Halfway between Arcturus and the hind leg of Ursa Major is the star Cor Coroli in Canes Venatici the Hunting Dogs. Use binoculars to look for a fuzzy patch halfway between Arcturus and Cor Coroli. This is a globular cluster called M3, the third entry in Charles Messier’s 18th century catalogue of things that resemble a comet but aren’t. This cluster contains half a million stars at a distance of 34,000 light years, nearly a thousand times farther than Arcturus.
This Week in the Solar System
Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:08 am and sunset will occur at 7:41 pm, giving 12 hours, 33 minutes of daylight (7:13 am and 7:46 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday, the Sun will rise at 6:54 am and set at 7:50 pm, giving 12 hours, 56 minutes of daylight (7:00 am and 7:55 pm in Saint John).
The Moon is full this Sunday, the Mi’kmaq Maple Sugar Moon. Mars spends the next two weeks moving along between the long horns of Taurus the Bull. Saturn is rising around 5 am this week, half an hour before Jupiter. Mercury and Venus will be out of sight over the next month. Starting on Tuesday we will have another two-week opportunity to see the zodiacal light in a clear, dark western sky, approximately 45-90 minutes after sunset.
With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm and view archived shows.
Questions? Contact Curt Nason.