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Gateway to the Stars March 2019

Posted February 26, 2019 - by Nick Jarvis

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Gateway to the Stars is our monthly tour of this month's best night sky sights. We'll explore the planets, stars, constellations, and other objects that can be seen with and without telescopes, and talk about their astronomical significance. It's also a great place to ask questions and get practical advice on stargazing techniques and equipment that can maximize the quality of your experience with the sky. We'll also highlight interesting news and current events in astronomy research and spaceflight.

This month, we'll look at the upcoming equinox (March 21st at 3:58 PM MDT) and how this is the period of the fastest changes in daylight and sun position. And for those of us driving on our lovely grid/cartesian streets, why we'll be needing to use our sun-visors a lot more! We'll also look over the visible planets, with all five of them peeking out in the coming weeks. Looking deeper into the sky, we'll look over some of our soon-departing winter objects: Bright star clusters such as the Pleiades, Hyades, and Beehive; bright nebulae such as Orion and Rosette, and we'll take our last chances of the season to see the bright galaxies of Andromeda, Triangulum, and Whirlpool.

Opportunity Rover Self-Portrait
A composite selfie by the Opportunity rover, taken just a few weeks before the dust storm that ultimately ended its fifteen (!) year mission. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)


In spaceflight news, we also give a fond farewell to the Opportunity rover, which has been dutifully exploring the surface of Mars since 2005, a bygone era when Netflix didn't have a streaming service, and a small number of university students were having fun on thefacebook.com. This month is a good time to recap the rover's accomplishments and to reflect on our expanded perception of Mars after all these years of up-close study. Other spaceflight news items include the successful Japanese robotic landing on the asteroid Ryugu, and NASA's announcement of its accelerated plans to resume flights to the Moon.

Much to talk about; space never sleeps.

Join Nick Jarvis on Saturday, March 2nd, for this week's Gateway to the Stars. Tickets are just $2.00 per person for the public, and free for members of Clark Planetarium. Get your tickets now.