10 Things for the Week of March 3 - 9
27 February 2013
This week is full of some bright, and some not so bright, happenings. View a comet, remember two father/son luminaries and perhaps even see a star disappear! Also, get ready to rise and shine early next Sunday (March 10th) -- it's daylight saving time again.
1. COMET PAN-STARRS
Your first chance to see a comet this year is the evening of March 5th when comet Pan-STARRS makes its closest approach to Earth. This isn't the only chance you will have to view this comet this month: March 10th could be a good day too. However, the predicted best viewing days will be March 12th and 13th. See Jane Houston Jone's "What's Up for March" for the best viewing tips.
It was this week 27 years ago that several international spacecraft (Vega 1 and 2, and Suisei) converged on incoming comet Halley. Unlike comet Pan-Starrs, which will be entering the inner solar system for the first time, comet Halley returns to the inner solar system every 76 years.
3. STAR PARTY
Looking for an opportunity to observe the night sky? Well, if you live in Virginia there will be a star party this weekend. This could be a good chance for you to view comet Pan-STARRS, as it will be making its closest approach to the sun on Sunday, March 10th.
This week on Wednesday, March 6th the moon will occult dwarf planet Pluto. Sounds scary, huh, but this is an average happening in space. And without occultations we may never have discovered the rings of Uranus (see further below). An occultation is a celestial event in which a larger body covers up a distant object. On Wednesday the moon will completely block out dwarf planet Pluto.
5. ASTEROID OCCULTATION
Also on March 6th, asteroid 5923 Liedeke will occult a 6.0 magnitude star (HIP 39659), which is in the constellation of Cancer (the crab). This star is dimmer than some, but it is still visible to the naked eye. An asteroid occultation occurs when an asteroid passes directly in front of a star causing the star to disappear. This event will be visible in the north eastern part of the United States and in Canada at 07:07 UT, which means if you live in the north eastern part of the United States that it will occur at 2:07 a.m. EST.
6. BIG FIND
Friday (March 8) marks the 36th anniversary (1977) of the discovery of the rings of Uranus. However, some cite that it is possible that William Herschel, who discovered the planet Uranus, two of its moons and two moons of Saturn, discovered a ring of Uranus back in 1797. Even though this unconfirmed finding was documented in a paper, the rings were not officially discovered until 1977 during an occultation experiment.
7. FAMILIAL CONNECTIONS
Thursday, March 7th is the 221st birthday of John Herschel (1792 - 1871). John Herschel, son of William Herschel, made several contributions to the world of astronomy himself. It was John who suggested that the moons of Saturn be named for the Titans in Greek mythology.
8. RHEA FLYBY
Speaking of the moons of Saturn -- the Cassini spacecraft is scheduled for its next flyby this week (Saturday, March 9, 2013), and it will be flying by one of the original seven known moons of Saturn: Rhea.
9. LECTURE: METEORITES
Looking for a free lecture regarding the meteorite fall in Russia last month? Look no further, there is one in California this week on Friday, March 8th.
10. SPRING FORWARD
On Saturday, March 9th, you may want to set your clock ahead one hour in the later evening/night. The next day (Sunday, March 10th) is daylight saving time.
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