March 9th, 2016
There are two major astronomical events taking place today. The first, a total solar eclipse, is only visible from a relatively small area of the world but the second, Jupiter at its best and brightest, will be visible to everyone the world over.
Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and is currently at opposition, which means it appears directly opposite the Sun in the sky. This makes it the best time to observe the planet as it rises at sunset, sets at sunrise and is visible throughout the entire night. It’s at it’s brightest for the entire year, is quite unmissable in the evening sky and if you observe the planet through a small telescope, it will also appear at its largest.
But you don’t need a telescope to truly enjoy Jupiter. Binoculars will show a tiny disk and the four largest moons strung out in a line on either side of the planet. If you’re lucky enough to own a small telescope, you won’t be disappointed with the view. Not only will you see the moons, but also the dark stripes across the disk that are actually cloud belts in its atmosphere.
If you’re observing Jupiter early in the evening, make a note of the positions of the moons and then come back a few hours later and see what’s changed. At least one of them (probably innermost Io or maybe Europa) will have moved in its orbit; maybe one will be hidden or maybe you only saw three to begin with and now all four can be seen.
This is what makes Jupiter such an interesting target for amateur astronomers. Don’t miss this opportunity to see it for yourself; it will still be visible in the evening sky for months to come, but this is the best view you’ll get for the whole of the year.
All Astronomical Events for March 9th, 2016
00:02 UT – Jupiter is at opposition. (Jupiter: magnitude -2.5, diameter 44.4”, Leo, visible all night. See details above.)
00:16 UT – First location to see the total solar eclipse begin.
01:54 UT – New Moon (Aquarius, not visible.)
02:00 UT – Total solar eclipse maximum. Visible from south and eastern Asia, north and eastern Australia, the Indian and Pacific oceans.
03:03 UT – Dwarf planet Ceres is in conjunction with the Sun. (Ceres: magnitude 8.9. Aquarius, evening sky.)
03:39 UT – Last location to see the total solar eclipse end.
04:35 UT – Last location to see a partial solar eclipse end.
The spiral galaxy M65 culminates at midnight tonight. (Magnitude 10.3. Leo, all night.)
Events in bold involve objects and/or events that are visible with the naked eye.
Easy Things to See With a Small Telescope
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