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Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

Following the many faces of the Moon

Posted on February 29 2016 at 3:26:14 0 comments

Supermoon and micromoon

Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

Just for fun and amusement, this month I thought we might follow the Moon on its March across the sky.

Actually, the first day of the month (St David’s Day) should see the return to Earth of three astronauts from the ISS in a Soyuz spacecraft.

The Moon, meanwhile, is a daytime object but is very close to Saturn on the 2nd – if you’re out and about before seven o’clock in the morning. It remains visible during the daytime until it vanishes on the 9th.

This is when the Moon is between Earth and the Sun and if it’s in just the right place, it passes across the face of the Sun as a total eclipse.

This happened 12 months ago, you may remember, and it happens again this time. Unfortunately, this eclipse is only visible across the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just where the least number of people can see it!

Now we switch to evening viewing, just in time to see Jupiter at opposition – that is, it is exactly opposite the Sun in the sky.

This is when we are closest to the giant planet and it is the brightest object, apart from the Moon, of course, making it very easy to locate. It is also exactly due south at midnight, sitting below the mighty constellation of Leo.

The 10th of the month is a great time to start looking for the Moon once again as it will be a fascinating thin sliver, only visible for a short while after the Sun sets just after six o’clock. You may need to use binoculars to find it.

This day could also see the launch of an Orbital spacecraft to resupply the ISS so keep an eye out for that at http://www.heavens-above.com

The Moon will be much easier to spot the following day, when it will also be adjacent to the bright star Vesta in Pisces.

It gets larger each day and on the 13th it is below the lovely cluster of the Pleiades, nestling up to the red giant of Aldebaran in Taurus the following night.

On the 16th the Moon reaches first quarter, when we can see half a Moon, and between now and full, it will be gibbous. Ah, the delights of the language of astronomy!

The 20th sees the Vernal or Spring Equinox and in fact, it will be on the 20th for the rest of my life. The Autumnal Equinox and the Solstices vary but not the Spring Equinox.

The Moon is getting closer to being full now and is just underneath Regulus in Leo. The following day finds it close to Jupiter, and full Moon is on the 23rd.

At this time, the Moon is at its most distant in its orbit so we get the opposite of a Supermoon – a Micromoon? Take a look and see if it looks smaller.

The 24th sees it close to Spica in Virgo. The Moon turns gibbous again as the month draws to a close and becomes a daytime object once more.

Then we are into the Easter holidays – so have a good one and may your gravity never wave!

Above: Supermoon and micromoon


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