Stargazing in the Caribbean
copyright© 1998 Jeannie Kuich

MARCH 2009 SKY CALENDAR

SPECIAL EVENTS:


Visible only once every eight years Venus passes from evening to morning sky. This is the year! On March 25th Venus rises 30 minutes before the Sun low to the horizon and sets 30 minutes after the Sun.
Saturn is visible all night long and is closest and biggest on the 8th.
On Friday the 20th the Spring or vernal equinox occurs.

MOON PHASES:
Wed. 4th: First Quarter
Tue. 10th: Full
Wed. 18th: Last Quarter
Thu. 26th: New

MOON, PLANETS AND STAR DANCES:
Sun. 1st: Mercury and Mars near horizon before dawn
Tue. 3rd: Moon in the center of the Pleiades star sisters
Fri. 6th: Moon and the star Pollux in Gemini in evening
Mon. 9th: Moon and the star Regulus in Leo in late evening
Tue. 10th: Moon and Saturn in late evening
Fri. 13th: Moon and the star Spica in Virgo in late evening
Tue. 17th: Moon and the star Antares in Scorpius before dawn
Sun. 22nd: Moon and Jupiter before dawn
Tue. 24th: Moon and Mars before dawn
Wed. 25th: Venus very low to dawn horizon; very low to evening horizon
Mon. 30th; Moon and the Pleiades star sisters in evening
Tue. 31st: Moon and Aldebaran in Taurus in evening

MARCH 2009 SOAP OPERA
Most folks like to sail under a full Moon which is lovely, but they won’t see many stars except the brightest ones when the Moon is so bright.

In the Caribbean it’s much harder to see the Man in the Moon because the rabbit is so distinctive. It’s best seen when the Moon is near its full phase when the rabbit hunches straight up with its long ears pointing upwards from the upper right hand side toward the top not long after the Moon rises.

The Moon is most often portrayed in art as either full or as a crescent but it spends less time as those phases as it does as a gibbous Moon when it appears hunchbacked. There are several reasons. First, it appears gibbous for the entire half month between first and last quarters except when full. Second, a gibbous Moon remains visible through most of the night because it appears far from the Sun whereas crescents shine near the Sun and stay above the horizon for fewer nighttime hours. Third, you can see the gibbous Moon during the daytime much better than the crescent because it is not only larger but brighter and farther away from the Sun’s blazing eye.

But the Moon’s visibility, like that of any celestial object, depends on its declination. For example, it is only true on average that the first quarter Moon sets and last quarter rises at midnight. If you live in the mid-northern latitudes these phases can rise and set up to two hours before or after midnight. These times increase the farther from the equator you are, the same as the variations in the Sun’s rising and setting times change according to your latitude.

Here in the Caribbean you may notice that the Moon is not slanted the way it is at home at the same time so that it looks different here. The Moon also may look bigger here when it is close to the horizon but that is just an optical illusion. In any case, enjoy this magnificent satellite of ours that we are so lucky to see!

Many other sky legends may be found in "Soap Operas Of The Sky", a stargazing guide by Jeannie Kuich.