Moon Phases – March 2011

Early evening Moon above Glasgow on 18th March

Early evening Moon above Glasgow on 18th March

Here are the Moon phases in the Northern hemisphere for March 2011 and other interesting things of note in the sky.

4th March: New Moon
12th March: First Quarter
19th March: Full Moon
26th March: Last Quarter

Here is the view from Glasgow, Scotland, looking due South at midnight on 4th March with Saturn in the constellation of Virgo:

The midnight sky on 4th March 2011

The midnight sky on 4th March 2011

And by the time of the full Moon, on 19th March, here’s the view:

The midnight sky on 19th March 2011.

The midnight sky on 19th March 2011.

Along with being a full Moon, it’s also at it’s closest to Earth (apogee) for some 18 years generating lot’s of gossip, speculation and faffle. You can read some of the facts about the so-called ‘supermoon’ here.

The arrival of Spica in the night sky is often regarded as one of the first signs that Spring is on the way. Spica is the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo (the maiden). Spica is the 15th brightest star in our night sky. It’s some 260 light years away from Earth and is actually a binary star system (two stars orbiting one another very closely).

The 5th planet from the Sun, Saturn, is visible in the constellation of Virgo from now through summer. The gas giant is most famous for its rings. It’s great to look out for and even better with a telescope or binoculars. Here is a stunning real colour picture composition of it from the Cassini mission:

Saturn as viewed from the Cassini orbiter

Saturn as viewed from the Cassini orbiter

As we move toward Spring, it’ll get more difficult to see my Top 5 Winter Night Sky Objects which include The Andromeda Galaxy, The Great Square of Pegasus, Aldebaran (the red eye of Taurus the bull) and the Pleiades (also known as the Seven Sisters).

Derek’s Tips for Stargazing

• Sit in a dimly lit room for a good 10 to 15minutes before going out to look into the sky. This allows your eyes to grow accustom to low light and you’ll see the night sky objects much better.

• Try to avoid using a torch as this will dazzle you. If you have to, cover a white torch with a red filter to find your way around safely.

• You should be able to see all these objects with just your eyes, but if you have binoculars or a telescope you’ll see them in much greater detail.

• Always wrap up warm when looking at the sky at night, especially in the winter. It’s better to put on more layers, that you can remove if you are too hot, than to go out with too few and be cold. Take a hot drink in a flask, a snack and some company cause it’s always better to share in the wonder!

About Derek Shirlaw

I'm passionate about science communication, social media, and my home country, Scotland. In particular, I have a real interest in astronomy, digital marketing, and the great outdoors.
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