Friday, April 8, 2011

March 2011

Spring is quickly approaching, and with spring comes a new set of things to see in the night sky. Well, if the pollen doesn't get too thick in the atmosphere, that is! As you sit in this warmer weather and enjoy the scent of freshly blooming flowers in this spring night air, here are some things you can expect to see this month.

The month begins with a new moon on the 4th, so you won't really see it, but it will be a full moon again by the 19th.

You can expect to see a lot of solar activity this month. Last month on Valentines Day, sunspot complex 1161-1162 gave us our first class X solar flare (that's the strongest level of solar flare that we know of, for sun watching newbies). 1158 threatened us with an M class (lowest level) flare, and now sunspot 1164 is crackling with M class energy as it comes over the horizon. We recommend turning off (and maybe even unplugging) any electronics that are not in use so as not to risk them getting damaged in the event of another severe solar flare. Solar flares send out powerful electromagnetic pulses that can fry anything with an electric current running through it, so if you don’t need to use something, turn it off. You just might save your dear computer’s life! True story: the flare last month knocked out a lot of communications in the South Pacific, and even made some polar flights reroute.
As far as constellations are concerned, Scorpio is the star of the show this month. It will be big and beautiful in our southern horizon just before sunrise all this month, so rise and shine, grab a cup of coffee, and check it out!
If you are more into individual stars, you can get a good look at Aldebaran this month. It is the brightest star in Taurus, straight above your head in the evening sky. It is a bloated orange red giant (K5 III), about 65 light years away. It could go nova at any time, too, but it’s not a threat to us.

If planets are your cup of tea, you can see Mercury and Jupiter in conjunction on the 16th, which is very cool, because Mercury is ridiculously hard to see because it is so close to the sun. On the 22nd, it will be visible all by itself for about 30 minutes just after sunset. Last but not least, you can see our beloved Venus has her own little moondance this month, as she is in conjunction with the crescent moon for the first few days in March. It will be a beautiful sight!
For more information or for tips on star gazing, call 229-432-6955.

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