In the Sky this Week – March 2, 2021

This entry is part 186 of 191 in the series In the Sky This Week

This week, the Moon appears in the predawn sky, Mars is in a close conjunction with the Pleiades star cluster, and the planets Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn appear low above the horizon before dawn; Mercury and Jupiter appear in a very close conjunction – less than 1 degree apart, as they swap positions over the course of several days

The Moon appears near the star Spica high in the southwestern predawn sky on March 2nd.

Southwestern predawn sky
The Moon near the star Spica high in the southwestern predawn sky on March 2nd. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.

The Moon appears near the star Antares in the constellation Scorpius in the southern predawn sky on March 5th.

Southern predawn sky
The Moon near the star Antares in the southern predawn sky on March 5th. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.

The Moon appears in the constellation Sagittarius in the south-southeastern predawn sky on March 7th.

South-southeastern predawn sky
The Moon in the constellation Sagittarius in the south-southeastern predawn sky on March 7th. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.

Mars and Uranus appear in the southwestern sky after sunset – Mars appears very close to the Pleiades star cluster all week.

Southwestern sky after sunset
Mars and Uranus appear in the southwestern sky after sunset; Mars appears very close to the Pleiades star cluster all week. Red dots show the path of Mars over the next week. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.

Here’s a close-up of the Mars-Pleiades conjunction:

Conjunction
Close-up of the Mars-Pleiades conjunction this week. Red dots show the path of Mars over the week. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.

Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn appear low above the east-southeastern horizon before dawn this week; Jupiter and Mercury swapping positions by early next week.

Before sunrise on March 5th, Mercury and Jupiter appear less than a degree apart!

Conjunction
Mercury and Jupiter appear less than a degree apart on the morning of March 5th – this morning . Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.

The waning crescent Moon appears in the southeastern predawn sky with the planets on March 8th.

Southeastern horizon on before dawn
Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon appear low above the southeastern horizon on before dawn on March 8th. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.

Seen from Hamilton, New Zealand in the southern hemisphere, Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn appear to “point” the opposite direction from how they appear in the northern hemisphere – the planets also appear much higher above the horizon, so they should be easier to see in the southern hemisphere.

Morning planets seen from the southern hemisphere
Seen from Hamilton, New Zealand in the southern hemisphere, Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn appear to “point” the opposite direction from how they appear in the northern hemisphere. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.

The Moon is a waning gibbous – rising after sunset, visible high in the sky after midnight, and visible to the southwest after sunrise.

The third quarter Moon occurs on March 5th – rising around midnight, and visible to the south after sunrise.

After March 5th, the Moon will be a waning crescent – visible low to the east before sunrise.

Moon
The Moon from 2021-03-02 – 2021-03-08. Visualizations by Ernie Wright / NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio.

If you click on the Moon image above, or click this link, you will go to NASA’s Moon Phase and Libration, 2021 page – it will show you what the Moon looks like right now. If you click the image on that page, you will download a high-rez TIFF image annotated with the names of prominent features – helpful for logging your lunar observations!

Moon News:

The Sun has been spot-free for one day – a sunspot may be emerging below the equator.

The northern coronal hole appears diminished from last week, the southern coronal hole remains huge, with a very large tendril stretching up towards the equator; several other coronal holes appear on the Sun’s face.

The Sun seen in 193 angstroms (extreme ultraviolet) March 1, 2021:

LOTS of prominence activity again over that last couple days – prominence are popping up all over!

The Sun seen in 304 angstroms (extreme ultraviolet) March 1, 2021:

Videos courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams.
You can view the Sun in near real-time, in multiple frequencies here: SDO-The Sun Now.
You can create your own time-lapse movies of the Sun here: AIA/HMI Browse Data.
You can browse all the SDO images of the Sun from 2010 to the present here: Browse SDO archive.

Solar Activity on Facebook – Run by Volunteer NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador Pamela Shivak

Sun
SOLARACTIVITY PICTURE OF THE DAY for March 2nd, 2021 is this fantastic prominence progression capture by Jim Ferreira. Jim writes: “Spectacular surge / spray prominence on the western limb in outgoing AR2805. Captured near eruption peak, then decline, plasma returning to the chromosphere along the same magnetic lines as the initial eruption. Some of the horizontal plasma spray at bottom right of the main outburst is actually splash caused by the down flowing plasma. Solar Prominences Rock!!”

Solar Corona

Solar wind speed is 589.5 km/sec, with a density of 13.2 protons/cm3 at 1154 UT.

Near real-time animation of the corona and solar wind from the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):

SOHO LASCO C2 Latest Image
Animated LASCO C2 Coronograph showing the solar corona above the Sun’s limb (the white circle). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech-SOHO

Sun News

Near-Earth objects (NEOs) discovered this month: 0, this year: 508, all time: 25,323  (+10)
Potentially hazardous asteroids: 2173  (updated  2021-03-02)
Total Minor Planets
discovered (NASA): 1,065,732  (+5,740)
Total Minor Planets discovered (MPC): 1,044,734 (updated 2021-02-23)

Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:

Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2011 EH17
2021-Mar-02
9.6 LD
16.8
43
1999 RM45
2021-Mar-02
7.7 LD
20
408
2016 DV1
2021-Mar-03
2.1 LD
18.3
39
2020 SP
2021-Mar-03
18.4 LD
3.9
13
2021 DE1
2021-Mar-03
4.4 LD
3
11
2021 DW1
2021-Mar-04
1.5 LD
5.4
33
2021 CN3
2021-Mar-05
11.2 LD
3.8
20
2021 CF8
2021-Mar-05
11.5 LD
11.8
54
2021 DL
2021-Mar-08
11.8 LD
5.8
34
535844
2021-Mar-10
14.2 LD
7.3
162
2021 CF6
2021-Mar-10
4.2 LD
8.4
62
2020 FM
2021-Mar-10
18.2 LD
13.3
56
2011 YW10
2021-Mar-12
19.8 LD
13.2
45
2021 CX8
2021-Mar-15
18.1 LD
6.6
52
2021 DT
2021-Mar-16
18.3 LD
7.3
34
231937
2021-Mar-21
5.3 LD
34.4
1024
2021 CX5
2021-Mar-27
7.7 LD
5.6
48
2020 GE
2021-Mar-27
12.7 LD
1.5
8
2019 GM1
2021-Mar-31
15.1 LD
3.9
14
2015 MB54
2021-Apr-06
13.6 LD
3.7
57
2020 GE1
2021-Apr-07
12.2 LD
4.2
14
2014 FO38
2021-Apr-07
16.8 LD
8.3
20
2020 UY1
2021-Apr-15
16 LD
8.7
22
2017 HG4
2021-Apr-16
7.6 LD
4.1
10
2020 HE5
2021-Apr-17
8.5 LD
4.3
10
2019 HQ
2021-Apr-20
14.8 LD
8.8
20
2020 HO5
2021-Apr-22
16.5 LD
3.3
7
2019 PS1
2021-Apr-23
14.5 LD
10
16
2016 QE45
2021-Apr-24
13.2 LD
15.3
162
2015 HA177
2021-Apr-26
18.7 LD
8.7
10
2019 HF4
2021-Apr-26
7.8 LD
6.8
11

Notes: LD means “Lunar Distance.” 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. Red highlighted entries are asteroids that either pass very close, or very large with high relative velocities to the Earth. Table from SpaceWeather.com

Asteroid News:

On March 1, 2021, the NASA All Sky Fireball Network reported 2 fireballs!
(2 sporadics)

In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point–Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). Credit: SpaceWeather.com

Fireball News

If you see a bright meteor or a fireball, please REPORT IT to the American Meteor Society and the International Meteor Organization!

Position of the planets and several spacecraft in the inner solar system:

Inner Solar System
Position of the planets and a couple spacecraft in the inner solar system, 2021-03-02. Credit: Bob Trembley / NASA Eyes on the Solar System.

Position of the planets in the middle solar system:

Middle Solar System
Position of the planets and a couple spacecraft in the middle solar system, 2021-03-02. Credit: Bob Trembley / NASA Eyes on the Solar System. Inset: comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM.

Position of the planets, dwarf planets and some transneptunian objects in the outer solar system:

Outer Solar System
Position of the planets and many transneptunian objects in the outer solar system, 2021-03-02. Credit: Bob Trembley / NASA Eyes on the Solar System. Inset: bilobed transneptunian object Arrokoth (2014 MU69), credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute//Roman Tkachenko

Mars Perseverance Rover:

International Space Station:

HiRISE – on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:

OK… I HAD 5 pair of red/blue 3D glasses BEFORE I moved… where are they now? Who knows?

Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters Building in Washington!

Not a spacecraft, but hey!

Hubble Space Telescope:

Climate:

See a list of current NASA missions here: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/?type=current

Exoplanet
ex·o·plan·et /ˈeksōˌplanət/, noun: a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun.

All Exoplanets 4352
Confirmed Planets Discovered by Kepler 2394
Kepler Project Candidates Yet To Be Confirmed 2366
Confirmed Planets Discovered by K2 425
K2 Candidates Yet To Be Confirmed 889
Confirmed Planets Discovered by TESS 113
TESS Project Candidates Integrated into Archive (2021-02-20 13:00:01) 2510
Current date TESS Project Candidates at ExoFOP 2510
TESS Candidates Yet To Be Confirmed 1398 (-6)

Data from the NASA Exoplanet Archive
* Confirmed Planets Discovered by TESS refers to the number planets that have been published in the refereed astronomical literature.
* TESS Project Candidates refers to the total number of transit-like events that appear to be astrophysical in origin, including false positives as identified by the TESS Project.
* TESS Project Candidates Yet To Be Confirmed refers to the number of TESS Project Candidates that have not yet been dispositioned as a Confirmed Planet or False Positive.

Exoplanet News


Not Aurora, but light pillars, taken by a buddy!

These light pillars were very likely caused from streetlights, since this was taken just after new moon at Alcona Park in Michigan. Details: Sony a6000, Sigma 16mm prime lens, Star Adventurer sky tracker, 20 seconds exposure, f/2.5, ISO 6400. Credit: Adrian T Bradley.
Aurora
A fantastic dance of light and color! Snow was literally falling on my lens during each of these pictures and you can see a thin layer of clouds threatened to ruin the party, but luckily the aurora wasn’t messing around tonight. Credit: Sacha Layos

SpaceWeather.com Realtime Aurora Gallery: https://spaceweathergallery.com/aurora_gallery.html

At last night’s meeting of the Warren Astronomical Society, President Diane Hall mentioned that she has spoken with the Detroit Audubon Society about planning a Dark Sky event on Belle Isle! I’m pretty sure that several member clubs of the Great Lakes Association of Astronomy Clubs will want to participate. More info as this develops!

Visit an International Dark Sky Park: https://www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/parks/

For Teachers:

Check out NASA’s Interactive “Visible Earth” website – explore real-time climate data, and the satellites observing the Earth!

Visible Earth from https://climate.nasa.gov/earth-now/

Hubble: Beautiful Universe – The Pillars of Creation

This one is my mother in-law’s favorite!

These towering tendrils of cosmic dust and gas sit at the heart of M16, or the Eagle Nebula. The aptly named Pillars of Creation, featured in this stunning Hubble image, are part of an active star-forming region within the nebula and hide newborn stars in their wispy columns.

Although this is not Hubble’s first image of this iconic feature of the Eagle Nebula, it is the most detailed. The blue colors in the image represent oxygen, red is sulfur, and green represents both nitrogen and hydrogen. The pillars are bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young stars located just outside the frame. The winds from these stars are slowly eroding the towers of gas and dust.

Stretching roughly 4 to 5 light-years, the Pillars of Creation are a fascinating but relatively small feature of the entire Eagle Nebula, which spans 70 by 55 light-years. The nebula, discovered in 1745 by the Swiss astronomer Jean-Philippe Loys de Chéseaux, is located 7,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Serpens. With an apparent magnitude of 6, the Eagle Nebula can be spotted through a small telescope and is best viewed during July. A large telescope and optimal viewing conditions are necessary to resolve the Pillars of Creation. NASA.

Stay safe, be well, and look up!


Software Apps used for this post:

Stellarium: a free open source planetarium app for PC/MAC/Linux. It’s a great tool for planning observing sessions. A web-based version of Stellarium is also available.


Section header image credits:
The Sky – Stellarium / Bob Trembley
Observing Target – Turn Left at Orion / M. Skirvin
The Moon – NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Sun – NASA/JPL-Caltech
Asteroids – NASA/JPL-Caltech
Fireballs – Credited to YouTube
Comets – Comet P/Halley, March 8, 1986, W. Liller
The Solar System – NASA Eyes on the Solar System / Bob Trembley
Spacecraft News – NASA Eyes on the Solar System / Bob Trembley
Exoplanets – Space Engine / Bob Trembley
Light Pollution – NASA’s Black Marble
Aurora – Bob Trembley
The Universe – Universe Today