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Star Gazing - March 23, 2020
Monday, March 23
• Castor and Pollux shine together nearly overhead in the south after dark. Pollux is slightly the brighter of
these "twins." Draw a line from Castor through Pollux, follow it farther out by a big 26° (about 2½
fist-widths at arm's length), and you're at the dim head of Hydra, the Sea Serpent. In a dark sky the head
of Hydra is a subtle but distinctive grouping, about the size of your thumb at arm's length. Binoculars show
it easily through light pollution or moonlight.
Continue the line farther by a fist and a half and you hit Alphard, Hydra's orange heart. It's 2nd magnitude.
Another way to find the head of Hydra: It's almost midway from Procyon to Regulus.
Tuesday, March 24
• Venus is at greatest elongation, 46° east of the Sun. This is when we see Venus 50% sunlit, geometrically
speaking. But in practice, the lighting at the terminator is so weak, compared to Venus's brilliant surface
elsewhere and perhaps your twilight sky, that the terminator isn't quite visible in a telescope — and so
Venus looks a few days past dichotomy. How accurately can you judge this subtle effect?
• New Moon (exact at 5:28 a.m. EDT).
Wednesday, March 25
• The bright star high in the west-northwest during and after dusk is Capella. Its pale-yellow color matches
that of the Sun, meaning they're both about the same temperature. But otherwise Capella is very different.
It consists of two yellow giant stars orbiting each other every 104 days.
Moreover, for telescope users, it's accompanied by a distant, tight pair of red dwarfs: Capella H and L,
magnitudes 10 and 13. Article and finder charts.
Moon, Venus, Pleiades at dusk, March 25-28, 2020
The waxing crescent Moon now steps up to the left of Aries, Venus, and the Pleiades. (For clarity, the
Pleiades cluster is always drawn here twice its actual apparent size. The Moon is three times actual
Thursday, March 26
• Spot the thin crescent Moon low in twilight, far below Venus as shown above. And watch the Pleiades
sinking closer toward Venus day by day. On April 3rd, Venus will shine just inside their left edge.
Friday, March 27
• Now the Moon is thicker and closer to Venus, as shown above.
• The signature fall-and-winter constellation Cassiopeia retreats down after dark. Look for it fairly low in
the north-northwest. It's standing roughly on end.
But for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes Cassiopeia is circumpolar, never going away completely. By
midnight or 1 a.m. it's at its lowest due north, lying not quite horizontal.
Saturday, March 28
• The waxing crescent Moon shines some 8° left of Venus in twilight. As night deepens, you'll find them
forming a triangle with the fingertip-sized Pleiades over them, as shown above.
• This is the time of year when the dim Little Dipper juts to the right from Polaris (the Little Dipper's
handle-end) during late evening. By that time the much brighter Big Dipper curls over high above it,
"dumping water" into it. The dippers do the reverse water dump in the fall.
Starry, Starry Night . . .
"I know nothing of any certainty, but the sight of the stars
makes me dream." -Vincent Van Gogh