March 5 – 18, 2018
Mount Washington — Viewing all five naked-eye planets might fit more easily into our days with the beginning of Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) this coming Sunday, the 11th. Venus and Mercury appear in evening twilight, about half an hour after sunset, and sunset will be an hour later – artificially changed from 5:47 p.m. today to nearly 7 p.m. on the 11th. Saturn, Mars and Jupiter are visible in the morning until about an hour before sunrise. Sunrise is at 6:23 a.m. today necessitating a challenging 5:15 a.m. awakening to meet these planets but, on Sunday the 11th when sunrise by the clock is at 7:13 a.m., we’ll be rising at an easy 6 o’clock.
Brilliant planet Venus, at magnitude -3.9, along with modest Mercury, at -1.3m, are just emerging from the setting sun’s glare. During these early days of their appearance, an unobstructed view to the western horizon is of the essence. To observe the pair before they set, look for Venus, also known as the Evening Star, by 6:20 p.m. today (the planet sets at 6:53 p.m.) and view by 7:45 p.m. on the 18th. Mercury is to be found very close to the upper right of the Evening Star. Bring binoculars so that you may search for Mercury if its light evades you. Both planets climb higher every evening–becoming easy to spot – until the 18th when Mercury begins to drop in altitude. Venus climbs high into the springtime sky while Mercury disappears from view by about the 23rd. Mercury’s brief appearance is its best in 2018.
A note from Earth Hour, which takes place Saturday, March 24, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.:
“You can celebrate Earth Hour in any way you want. It’s entirely in your hands. Want to keep it simple? Go stargazing, host a candlelight dinner, or simply switch off your lights for an hour. Thinking of going a little bigger? You could put on a gig or concert, screen a movie, or host an Earth Hour party!” https://www.earthhour.org/
False color image of Mercury
MESSENGER Mission to Mercury MErcury Surface, Space ENvionment, GEochemistry, and Ranging – http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/Explore/images/highlights/large/MDIS_global_enhancedcolor_map_rot_140.globe.bright.png
Opportunities to Participate
March 24, 8:30 – 9:30 p.m., Earth Hour – https://www.earthhour.org/
April 15–21, International Dark Sky Week – http://www.darksky.org/dark-sky-week-2018/