Sky at a Glance March 3 – 10

Photo showing constellations in the March evening sky and locations of the stars Procyon and Sirus.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, March 3 – 10  ~by Curt Nason

Let’s pay attention to the minority this week. By this I mean the Minor constellations: Ursa, Canis and Leo, all of which are visible on March evenings. Ursa Minor, the Little Bear, hosts the Little Dipper asterism and it has what is arguably the most important and famous star of the night sky – Polaris, the North Star – at the tip of its tail. Although smaller and less bright than the nearby Great Bear, Ursa Minor is at the centre of action in our night sky. How many have heard or even believe that Polaris is the brightest star in the night sky? It actually ranks at number 48.

Canis Minor, the Little Dog, is noted for having the eighth brightest star, Procyon. An imaginary arrowhead formed by Orion’s head and shoulder stars points eastward to the Little Dog. We usually see it as just two stars so it is probably a weiner dog. Despite the brilliance of its luminary, the Little Dog is just the opening act for Canis Major and its leading star, Sirius, the brightest one of the night sky. In early winter Procyon rises first to announce the impending arrival of Sirius, hence the name which means “before the dog.”

Leo Minor the Little Lion experiences difficulty in being noticed, and with good reason. It is one of those inconspicuous constellations created by the 17th century astronomer Johannes Hevelius to fill some gaps in the sky. We see it as a triangle between the back of Leo and the feet of Ursa Major. To give it some distinction and pride we can imagine the lion cub nipping at the heels of the Great Bear to keep it from attacking Leo.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:54 am and sunset will occur at 6:08 pm, giving 11 hours, 14 minutes of daylight (6:58 am and 6:14 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday, the last day of Standard Time, the Sun will rise at 6:41 am and set at 6:18 pm, giving 11 hours, 37 minutes of daylight (6:46 am and 6:23 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter next Friday, March 9. It is near Jupiter on Wednesday morning and joins Saturn and Mars on Saturday, March 10, making a great week for morning observing. Next Friday Jupiter halts its eastern progression against the stars and begins four months of retrograde motion that will see it passing Zubenelgenubi, giving me a chance to refer to that star again in early summer. Mercury and Venus will be side by side after sunset early in the week.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets on Saturday, March 3 at 7 pm in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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