Gateway to the Stars: March 2017

Nick Jarvis

Gateway to the Stars is our monthly exploration of the sights in the nighttime sky, as well as the news and hot topics in the field of astronomy, from the latest findings from the JUNO probe at Jupiter, to other deep space probes exploring the environment around Earth.

In the night sky, we’ll keep track of the position and motion of the planets. Only the elusive Mercury is out of sight, but the other visible planets (i.e. Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) will be easily visible and each make excellent targets for amateur observers. And as the spectacularly bright stars of the winter sky around Orion begin to slide out of view, we’ll turn to some of the hallmark constellations and deep-sky sights of spring.

One more thing… On the night of the show (March 4th), naked-eye observers in parts of North America will get to observe the Moon blot out the first-magnitude star Aldebaran during the early evening.

The Moon will pass through Taurus on and around the night of March 4th. High in the west after sunset, and low in the west by about midnight.

The Moon will pass through Taurus the night of March 4th. It will be high in the west after sunset, moving to low in the west by about midnight. Click for larger version.


Close-up of the region outlined in the previous image, showing the Moon and Aldebaran on the night of March 4th. Click for a time-lapse view of the occultation.

Lunar occultations happen several times per year, but its visibility depends on one’s position on Earth, and this one will be nicely visible from Salt Lake City. So, it’s not immensely rare, but it’s a lovely occasional treat, and a great reminder that the sky is a dynamic environment that’s always changing. That’s an easy thing to forget if we just glance at the stars for a few seconds.

Gateway to the Stars​ is hosted live by Nick Jarvis on Saturday, March 4th at 6:45pm in the Hansen Dome Theater. Tickets are $2, or free for planetarium members. Buy tickets here, or at the Clark Planetarium ticket desk.​

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