March and Its Stellar Performers, Page 2

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On the sixteenth it will be almost exactly equal in brilliancy to Canopus which is, next to Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. It will then steadily become dimmer. On the twenty-third it will be almost exactly of zero magnitude, that is, a little more splendid than such stars as Vega, Capella, and Arcturus. By the twenty-eighth, which is probably the last day of its visibility, it will shed just a little more light than the first magnitude stars, Aldebaran, Spica or Regulus. It will then grow less and less luminous as it draws in toward inferior conjunction with the sun early in April. Like that of the moon after the last quarter, its phase is a waning crescent which disappears entirely when it reaches the line of the earth and sun. Mercury was sometimes called by the ancients "the sparkling one" because it scintillated conspicuously. This characteristic is due to its position near the horizon and to the unequal refraction of its rays in passing through the layers of the earth's atmosphere at an oblique angle. This is typical not of Mercury alone but of all stars and planets when viewed close to the horizon.

In addition to Mercury, Venus and Jupiter may be seen in the evening sky this month. Venus is now increasing in brightness and at sunset on the fifteenth will be nearly midway between the western horizon and the meridian. Jupiter is in Cancer and about equally high above the eastern horizon at the same time. These two planets now surpass all other stellar objects in brightness. Venus is by far the brighter of the two but disappears below the western horizon about three hours after the sun.

Mars is now in the morning sky but too close to the sun to be seen while Saturn is low in the southeast at sunrise.

Spring begins this year on March 20 at 2: 54 p.m., Eastern Time, when the sun crosses the equator coming north and day and night are equal in length all over the world.

There will also be two eclipses this month, one, on March 7, an annular eclipse of the sun that will be visible only in the south Pacific and Australia, and the other, on the 22nd, a partial eclipse of the moon visible in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and Australia and part of Asia. The beginning of this eclipse may be seen also in all parts of North America except the northeastern section. In the extreme northwestern part the entire phenomenon will be observable. This eclipse will be 97% total. In the eastern states the eclipse will begin nearly at the time of sunrise, with the moon at the western horizon, and so will not be seen generally.

The evening sky in March is remarkably beautiful and interesting to star-gazers. West of the meridian we now see a brilliant assemblage of first magnitude stars in the well-known winter constellations-Aldebaran in the Hyades of Taurus and not far away the Pleiades; Orion with its Rigel and Betelgeuze; Capella in Auriga; the Dog-stars, Sirius and Procyon, in Canis Major and Canis Minor; Castor and Pollux in Gemini, and sloping high across the eastern sky, from Argo Navis on the southern horizon, across the feet of Gemini, through Auriga, Cassiopeia and Cepheus to the northern horizon, the blended radiance of countless faint and far distant stars in the Milky Way. Strongly contrasted with the splendor of the western half of the sky is the milder radiance of the spring constellations of Hydra, Leo and Virgo. The latter constellation is still partly below the horizon as is a part of the long winding constellation of Hydra. Draco and the Big Dipper are now well in view in the northeast as Cassiopeia and Cepheus draw nearer.

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