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Swirling cloud formations in the northern area of Jupiter's north temperate belt appear in this new view taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. The color-enhanced image was taken on February 7 as Juno performed its eleventh close flyby of Jupiter. At the time the image was taken, the spacecraft was about 5,086 miles from the tops of the clouds of the planet. Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill processed this image using data from the JunoCam imager. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

Bright Stars and Warmer Viewing in March


This month, become a sky watcher, and enjoy views of the brightest stars and constellations of winter and spring, under warmer observing conditions.

This month, the planets Venus and Mercury are easy evening objects, visible to sky watchers low in the west just after sunset. Locate Venus as a brilliant yellow-white star among the stars of Pisces. A short distance to the north or right above of Venus is Mercury seen as a fairly bright white “star.” The waxing crescent moon will be near Mercury and Venus the nights of March 18 and 19.

During March mornings, three planets are visible in the south and southwest just before sunrise. The brightest of the three is Jupiter, being much brighter than a typical star. Look for Jupiter low in the south southwest at dawn among the stars of Libra. The waning gibbous moon is very near Jupiter the mornings of March 6 through 8.

Locate Saturn as a fairly bright yellow star in the south-southeast about an hour before sunrise. Saturn is currently in the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer. A short distance to the west of Saturn is orange-red Mars. The waning moon will be very close to the pair of planets the mornings of March 10 and 11.

The MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium presents free of charge “Faster than Light! The Dream of Interstellar Flight” Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., through March 1 and March 13 through 29. The impulse to strike out into the unknown, to see what’s over the horizon is as old as humanity. Scientists now believe that our galaxy is filled with solar systems, including up to 9 billion Sun-like stars with planets similar to Earth. Astronomers are racing to find habitable worlds, but if we find one, how will we ever get there? Narrated by Sean Bean, “Faster Than Light! The Dream of Interstellar Flight” will dazzle audiences with virtual rides aboard spacecraft of the future. The program will be followed by a brief tour of the current night sky, using the planetarium.

Looking in the northeast, locate the “Big Dipper” formed by the stars of Ursa Major. High in the north, locate the “W” formed by the stars of Cassiopeia. Just west of overhead, locate the bright yellow star Capella of Auriga, the charioteer. The winter constellation of Taurus can be seen high in the west, marked by the orange star Aldebaran. Look for the Pleiades star cluster, seen as a tiny “dipper” of stars, lower in the west.

The waxing crescent moon is among the stars of Taurus the nights of March 21 through the 23rd. Sky watchers can locate Orion by looking for three stars in a row, the famous “belt” of Orion. Use the “belt” stars pointing downward toward the southeast, to locate the bright blue-white star Sirius the brightest star in the Heavens.

A giant ellipse can be formed by connecting the star Aldebaran, to Capella, and then moving east to Pollux and Castor of Gemini, then south to Procyon a bright star east of Orion, down to Sirius of Canis Major, then west to the blue star Rigel of Orion, and then back to Aldebaran. This super constellation or asterism is called the “Winter Ellipse.”

The MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium presents free of charge “Faster than Light! The Dream of Interstellar Flight” Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., January 16 through March 1 and March 13 through 29. Visit the MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium website for upcoming events and call (231) 777-0289 for sky show information. Carr-Fles Planetarium is located on the Muskegon Community College campus in Room 135. Thanks to the generosity of the Reach for the Stars campaign donors, you can now experience the all-new Carr-Fles Planetarium, featuring state-of-the-art digital projection, sound and lighting systems; all-new library of shows; and modern theater seating and domed ceiling.

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Jazz: Midnight, with art inspired by jazz album cover design, drops readers into the late night music clubs of 1957. From Gary Scott Beatty. Click here for Jazz: Midnight.

Wounds, Gary Scott Beatty’s zombie horror book with a twist, is now on Amazon. Click here for Wounds.

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