Looking Up: Seeing the stars as we change the clocks
Daylight Savings Time arrives for most of North America at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 11. As much as we may like the extra hour of daylight in early evening, the trade off is you must wait another hour to see the stars! It is worth the wait.
Probably not many of us wait up till 2 a.m. to change the clocks. But if you do, and the night is clear, if you look out will be amply awarded with a preview of springtime evening skies. Of course you then have to change the clock to 3 a.m.!
Whether it is 2 or 3 a.m., these are the “wee” hours when most people keep their appointment with their pillow. The stars go shining with hardly anyone to notice. It is normally a very quite time, and with most people sleeping, there are far fewer lights to split the night and steal the stars.
At that hour in early to mid March, you will (or would) see the bright blue-white star Spica due south, the brightest star of Virgo the Virgin. The bright orange star Arcturus, in Bootes the Herdsman, is high up and almost due south. Turn north and you will see the Big Dipper at its highest, doing its leap above and around the North Star.
If you are content to take a gander upwards at the sensible hour of 7 p.m. or a little later, you will see the Big Dipper doing its “spring leap” as I call it, standing on the tip of its “handle” star, with the front of the “bowl” on top in the northeastern sky. This is definitely a sign of spring in the closing nights of winter.
The fainter Little Dipper, its mots famous star, Polaris the North Star marking the tip of its “handle,” seems to be resting upright. In early evening at this time of year, the Little Dipper’s bowl is the the right, it’s “mouth” straight up and its curbing handle arcing to the left with Polaris on top. If there’s too much light in your sky, use binoculars to trace the Little Dipper.
Due south, the gloriously bright star Sirius is front in center. The constellation Orion is to the upper right. Nearly overhead (the “zenith”) is the bright yellow star Capella.
Start off just after sunset to look for the brilliant planet Venus, very low in the west. Use binoculars to search for Venus in the glare of twilight about 20 minutes after the Sun sets. Planet Mercury is nearby, to the right, and dimmer than Venus. Both will fit within the field of view of most binoculars!
About an hour before sunrise you can see see planet Saturn and to the right, planet Mars, fairly low in the south-southwest.
Jupiter is very bright in the south; look to the right of Mars! On Saturday, March 10, the crescent Moon stands between Saturn and Mars; on Sunday, the Moon is to the left of Saturn.
New Moon arrives March 17.
Keep looking up!
— Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.