Leaving winter behind.jpg

Leaving winter behind

By: Clive Jackson

[email protected]

WELCOME TO the March night sky. This is the month that marks the end of winter and the start of spring in the northern hemisphere. This year it happens on March 21, we call it the Spring Equinox.

The word Equinox means equal day and night and, all over the world at this time we have 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night.

On the evening of March 3, we will have a visible total lunar eclipse. This is when the Full Moon enters into the shadow of the Earth. It will begin at around 9.30pm and, by 10.45pm, the Moon will be at its deepest into the shadow, and could turn dark red in colour or disappear all together. This will all be over by midnight.

From an observer on the Moon at this time, the Earth will be seen to pass directly in front of the Sun. They would see a total eclipse, where the Earth will be surrounded by a brilliant red halo of sunlight, refracted in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is this refracted sunlight that reaches the Moon to give it its colour.

The planet Saturn is still well visible, high in the south all night in the constellation of Leo the Lion. On the evening of March 21, the thin crescent Moon will be close to Venus.

The Moon is Full on March 3, Last Quarter on March 12, New on March 19 and First Quarter on March 25.

Clive Jackson is the director of the Astronomical Observatory of Tavira (Sitio do Malhão) and the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.

Tel 281 321 754, Fax 281 324 688, email: [email protected] or visit: http://www.cdepa.pt