Sky Notes for March 2014 with James Abbott #stargazing
Mars remains in Virgo and reaches its closest point to Earth on 14th April when coincidently the Full Moon will be just below the Red Planet. In the first week of the month, before the Moon brightens the late evening sky, Mars will be a brilliant object in a dark sky with its distinctive strong orange colour.
Some superb images have recently been published including this from Michael Phillips in the USA which shows detail in the Northern polar region, areas of cloud and fog and a lot of surface detail :
The Moon will enter a total eclipse on the morning of the 15th but unfortunately from the UK this will be as the Moon sets. Observers in the USA will be able to see the Moon become totally immersed in the Earth’s shadow.
Jupiter is past its best but remains prominent in Gemini. The first quarter Moon will be close by on the evening of the 6th. By the end of the month Jupiter is starting to set in the West by midnight.
Saturn slowly brightens through April and can be seen fairly low in the South East in the hour before midnight. The Moon is close by on the 16th. The rings remain well open with the Southern edge of globe just visible above them (in an inverting telescope).
Daylight advances quickly during April. With the clocks now set to BST, the Sun sets at 8.20pm by the end of the month and astronomical twilight does not end until nearly 11pm.
Auroral activity was seen across most of the UK on the evening of 27th February with red glows seen low down in the North even from mid-Essex. Further North in the UK some spectacular activity was seen. With the Sun still near its peak activity there is an ongoing possibility of the rare treat of seeing the aurora from Essex. http://www.spaceweather.com/ gives current reports.
The Lyrid meteor shower reaches its peak on the night of the 22nd/23rd. The shower radiant is near Vega and reaches a reasonable altitude in the North East by about 11pm. There will be a dark skies window before the Moon rises just before 3am on the 23rd. In most years the Lyrids only reach modest activity rates and a few per hour might be seen. But there is also the possibility of the occasional fireball, several of which have been imaged and recorded on video in the last few years.