March 6 – 19, 2017
Mt. Washington — Wake up early and go out, as in a dream, to rendezvous with a ringed planet, a giant scorpion, a centaur that is an archer, and the king of the gods planet. Constellations that appear in winter’s pre-dawn sky are most familiar seen as patterns of summer nights, so it is particularly intriguing to see them in morning darkness and, this year, in the company of planets Saturn and Jupiter. During the first week of this post, dawn is around 5:50 a.m. and sunrise around 6:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. On Sunday, March 12, Eastern Daylight Time begins: dawn (civil twilight) is at 6:43 a.m., sunrise at 7:11 a.m.
When clock time springs ahead an hour, not-so-early risers may look out a southwest-facing window at dawn to find star-like Jupiter rather low to the horizon. Saturn beams in the south to the left of its bigger, brighter neighbor. Earlier, until about an hour before sunrise in environments where there’s minimal light pollution, the full figures of Scorpius the Scorpion and Sagittarius the Archer are sketched upon the heavens. Golden Saturn shines in Sagittarius. The red star to the right of Saturn is Antares, at the heart of Scorpius. The light of the approaching sun washes out the stars that compose the constellations, leaving luminous Antares and Saturn still shining.
Jupiter, nearly at its brightest, is visible after all the other celestial company has vanished. When viewing Jupiter before dawn, notice the giant planet’s companion, blue-white Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Virgin.
The Full Sap Moon occurs at 10:54 a.m. on Sunday the 12th. Look due west for moonset at 7:18 that morning and moonrise above the eastern horizon at 7:14 in the evening.
From the 12th through the 15th, the moon is in the vicinity of Jupiter. Luna then heads toward Scorpius and arrives at Saturn as half moon on the 20th.
Refresh! Join the planets and brightest stars in the heavenly mornings.