The Griffith Observatory Sky Report
This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
Daylight saving time starts on Sunday morning, March 9. At 2:00 a.m. standard time, clocks are set ahead one hour to 3:00 a.m. Standard time will return on November 2.
Look high in the southeast sky after sunset to see the brilliant planet Jupiter in Gemini the Twins. Use binoculars to find Jupiter’s four largest moons clustered like tiny stars around the planet’s brilliant disk. A telescope can be used to observe Jupiter’s cloud patterns. Jupiter’s famous oval storm, the Great Red Spot, will be visible from southern California at 9:00 p.m., PST on March 7,and 10:00 p.m., PDT on March 9 and 11. Jupiter is exactly 40 degrees straight north of the brightest nighttime star, Sirius, of Canis Major the Big Dog, on March 8. That night, at Griffith Observatory, both bright objects transit (cross) the meridian, the imaginary line that runs from north to south and passes overhead–at 7:31 p.m. March is prime time to see Jupiter through Griffith Observatory’s public telescopes.
The moon is high and bright in the early evening this week. Its phase changes from waxing crescent to first quarter on the 8th, and is gibbous after that. The moon is close to Jupiter on the 9th.
Look for the bright orange planet Mars in Virgo the Maiden, low in the southeast by 11:00 p.m. Mars is highest in the south when it transits the meridian at 3:00 a.m., PDT. Mars is now close enough for most astronomical telescopes to reveal the different dark regions of its ochre-hued desert. Mars will be at opposition–opposite the sun in the sky–on the 8th of April.
The golden planet Saturn is in Libra the Scales, and trails about two hours after Mars. Saturn is best placed for viewing in the south an hour before dawn. Saturn’s rings are an unforgettable sight in nearly any telescope.
The brightest planet, Venus rises above the east-southeast horizon shortly before the start of dawn. A telescope can show the planet’s crescent phase. Venus can still be seen at sunrise, when it is 24 degrees above the southeast horizon.
The best chance to see the International Space Station this week from Los Angeles comes on the morning of Wednesday, March 12. The ISS will emerge from earth’s shadow 18 degrees high in the south-southwest at 5:59 a.m., P.D.T. Outshining everything but Venus, the ISS will reach its apex at 60 degrees high in the southeast, then will approach the northeast horizon at 6:05 a.m.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, March 8. That occasion will also be used to honor the memory of the legendary telescope builder and astronomy popularizer John Dobson with a special presentation in our Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater at 4:00 p.m. This presentation will also be streamed live on the Internet via Griffith TV.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at email@example.com.