It’s the First Day of Spring

march equinox

The March equinox occurs at 16:15 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

mercury at greatest eastern elongation

The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 18.4 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Full Moon, Super Moon, Blue Moon

full moon, super moon, blue moon

This January 31st, the Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated.  Since this is the second full moon in the same month, it is sometimes referred to as a blue moon. This is also the last of two supermoons for 2018. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

The Sky Tonight Update: Quadrantids Meteor Shower peaks Jan. 3 and 4

Quadrantids, meteor shower, 2018

The Quadrantids is an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. It is thought to be produced by dust grains left behind by an extinct comet known as 2003 EH1, which was discovered in 2003.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Dec. 21-22, Ursids Meteor Shower

Ursids Meteor Shower

The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for optimal observing. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Dec. 21, December Solstice

December Solstice

The December solstice occurs at 16:28 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Sky Tonight Update: Dec. 18, New Moon

new moon, sky tonight

This December 18, the Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 06:30 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

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