Star Watch

January through June, 2018  

The WCSU Planetarium and Observatory are open twice per month (usually Saturdays), starting in March, during the WCSU spring semester. The facility is located on the WCSU Westside Campus, atop the hill between the Campus Center and the Pinney Hall dormitory. The entrance road faces the front of Pinney Hall. Be careful of its steep entrance apron; enter and depart the apron at an angle to it to avoid bottoming out. Parking is available but very limited around the facility; more may be found on University Boulevard.

Public Nights may be cancelled due to severe weather and/or dangerous road conditions. For updates, call 203- 837-8672 on the day of an event. Sky viewing cannot be held in cloudy or precipitating weather, but planetarium shows are usually held.

Planetarium shows are appropriate for adults and older children, but generally not for infants or toddlers.

NIGHTLY SKY CALENDAR

*,!, !! – interesting to very
interesting celestial event

 calendar or geometry – related event
(such as an equinox)


Day


Date


Note


Description

Tues


Jan.

16

 

New Moon

Wed

17

*

The slim
waxing crescent Moon passes near brilliant Venus, which is making a
return to the evening sky after some months as a predawn object. Look
low in the SW during evening twilight.

Wed

24

 

First Quarter
Moon

Tues

30

 

The Moon
reaches perigee at 358,994 km
(223,068 miles) from Earth’s center.

Wed

31

*,          predawn

FULL Old MOON.
New Englanders will see very little of its
eclipse, but this is the only eclipse of the Moon visible at all
here during 2018. Look NW before sunrise. The Moon will enter Earth’s
outer, penumbral shadow around 5:50 a.m., and its inner, darker umbral
shadow around 6:48 a.m., but the Sun rises around 7:06 a.m. and the Moon
will set at 7:09, so there is little time to see Earth’s umbral “bite”
on the Moon. Totality will not be visible from New England; mid-totality
is not until 8:30 a.m., well after moonset. (Quoted moonset and sunrise
times are for Danbury.)

Wed


Feb.

7

*

Last Quarter
Moon. The Moon also passes near the bright planet Jupiter. Look ESE in
the hours after midnight.

Fri

9

*

The waning crescent Moon passes near
Mars. Look SE before dawn.

Sun

11

*

The Moon reaches
apogee at 405,700 km (252,090 miles) from Earth’s center. It also
passes near Saturn. Look SE in the predawn hours.

Thurs

15

 

New Moon

Fri

16

*

The slim
waxing crescent Moon passes near Venus. Look WSW in evening twilight.

Sun

18

!

The waxing
crescent Moon passes near Mercury and Venus. Look SW in evening
twilight.

Fri

23

 

First Quarter
Moon

Tues

27

 

The Moon
reaches perigee at 363,933 km
(226,137 miles) from Earth’s center.

Thurs


Mar.

1

 

FULL Worm MOON

Tues/ Wed

6/7

*

The Moon
passes within 5 degrees of Jupiter. Look ESE in late evening on the 6th.

Fri


9

 

Last Quarter
Moon


Saturday


March 10


!

Free
Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory.
Planetarium show: 6 to 7 p.m.
Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for
sky viewing: 7 to 9 p.m. Things that may be observed include late
winter objects such as the Orion Nebula and star clusters in Auriga.

Sun

11

E


Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)

resumes at 2 a.m. Set your clocks ahead one hour!

Sun

11

*

The Moon reaches
apogee at 404,678 km (251,455 miles) from Earth’s center. It also
passes near Saturn. Look SE after midnight.

Thurs

15

*

The planet Mercury reaches
greatest eastern elongation at
18.4 degrees from the Sun. This is the best “evening planet” showing for
Mercury in 2018: roughly between March 5 and 18. Look W after sunset for
Mercury, with much brighter Venus toward its left. If viewed in a
telescope, Mercury will look like a tiny first quarter Moon; but Venus
will appear as a gibbous planet; it does not reach its GEE until
mid-August.

Sat

17

 

New Moon

Sun

18

*

The crescent
Moon passes near Venus. Look WSW in evening twilight.

Tues

20

E

The
vernal equinox (start of
Northern Hemisphere spring) occurs at 12:15 p.m. EDT.

Sat

24

 

First Quarter
Moon


Saturday


March 24


!

Free
Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory.
Planetarium show: 7 to 8 p.m.
Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for
sky viewing: 8 to 10 p.m. Objects that may be observed include the
First Quarter Moon and early spring celestial objects like the Beehive
star cluster and the double star Gamma Leonis.

Mon

26

 

The Moon reaches
perigee at 369,106 km (229,351 miles) from Earth’s center.

Sat

31

 

FULL Sap MOON

Sun/Tues


Apr.

1-3

*

Look SE in the hours after midnight to
see a close pairing of Saturn and Mars. Mars is brighter (magnitude
zero), and its orange color is unmistakable. By late July, when Mars
reaches opposition, it will outshine Jupiter.

Tues

3

*

The Moon passes near
 Jupiter. Look ESE in late
evening.

Fri/Sat

6/7

*

The Moon passes near Saturn and Mars.
Look SE after midnight.


Saturday


April
 7


!

Free
Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory.
Planetarium show: 7:30 to 8:30
p.m.
Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for
sky viewing: 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Objects that may be observed
include Gamma Leonis, Mizar and Alcor, and galaxies in Leo and Virgo.

Sun

8

 

Last Quarter Moon; also, the Moon
reaches apogee at 404,144 km
(251,123 miles) from Earth’s center.

Sun

15

 

New Moon

Tues

17

*

The crescent Moon passes near Venus.
Look W after sunset.

Fri

20

 

Moon reaches perigee at 368,714 km
(229,108 miles) from Earth’s center.


Saturday


April 21


!

Free
Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory.
Planetarium show: 7:30 to 8:30
p.m.
Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for
sky viewing: 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Objects that may be observed
include the Moon near First Quarter, and Mizar and Alcor.

Sun

22

 

First Quarter
Moon

Sun

29

 

FULL Pink MOON

Mon

30

*

The Moon passes near Jupiter. Look ESE
in middle evening.


Fri


May

4

*

The Moon passes near Saturn. Look SE in
late evening.


Saturday


May

5


!

Free
Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory.
Planetarium show: 8 to 9 p.m.
Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for
sky viewing: 9 to 11 p.m. Objects that may be observed include
Mizar and Alcor, globular star cluster M13, and Jupiter.

Sat

5

 

Moon reaches
apogee at 404,457 km (251,317
miles) from Earth’s center.

Sun

6

*

The Moon passes near Mars. Look SE after
midnight.

Mon

7

 

Last Quarter Moon

Tues

8

!

Jupiter reaches
opposition to the Sun, rising at sunset and visible all night.
Look SE after sunset, S around midnight and SW thereafter.

Tues

15

 

New Moon

Thurs

17

*

The Moon passes near Venus. Look W in
evening twilight.

Mon

21

 

First Quarter Moon


Monday


May 21


!

Free
Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory.
Observing only (weather
permitting): using the
20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for
Moon and Jupiter viewing: 8 to 10 p.m.


Sun

27

*

The Moon
passes near Jupiter. Look ESE in early evening.

Tues

29

 

FULL Flower
MOON

Thurs

31

!

The Moon
passes within 2 degrees of Saturn. Look SE in middle to late evening.

Sat


June

2

 

Moon reaches
apogee
at 405,317 km (251852 miles) from Earth’s center.

Sun

3

*

The Moon
passes near Mars (magnitude -1.7). Look SE in late evening.

Wed

6

 

Last Quarter
Moon

Wed

13

 

New Moon

Thurs

14

 

Moon reaches
perigee at 359,503 km (223,384
miles) from Earth’s center.

Sat

16

*

The Moon
passes near Venus. Look WNW during evening twilight to early evening.

Wed

20

 

First Quarter
Moon

Thurs

21

E


The summer solstice

(Sun farthest north) occurs at 6:07 a.m. EDT.

Sat

23

*

The Moon
passes near Jupiter. Look ESE in early evening.

Wed

27

!

Saturn reaches
opposition to the Sun, rising
at sunset and visible all night. It also passes within 2 degrees of the
Moon. Look SE, evenings. Saturn’s rings are wide open.

Thurs

28

 

FULL
Strawberry MOON

Sat

30

*

The Moon
passes near Mars. Look SE in middle evening.

 

PLANET INFORMATION

MERCURY – is in the western twilight sky during early March, best visible between the 5th and 18th. It reaches greatest eastern elongation on March 15, 18.4 degrees from the Sun. Thereafter, it closes with the Sun again, only to reappear in the eastern predawn sky at the end of April.                                                                                                                               

VENUS –  emerges from the Sun’s glare during February, becoming visible in the SW sky after sunset and gradually getting brighter and higher during the spring months. During the first few weeks of March, the much dimmer planet Mercury can be glimpsed to its right.

MARS – has a favorable opposition year, the best since 2003. It starts the year in Libra, rising about 2:30 a.m. (EST) as a moderately bright object, then moves into Scorpius and Sagittarius. Mars brightens to magnitude 0 in early April, rising around 2 a.m. (EDT). By the end of May, the planet will be brighter still and rising just after midnight (EDT). At Mars’s opposition on July 27, it will reach magnitude – 2.8, outshining Jupiter.

JUPITER – is in Libra for most of the year, visible in the SE predawn sky during January. It will rise earlier each month, appearing before midnight by early April. The giant planet reaches opposition on May 8, rising at sunset and visible all night. 

SATURN – is in Sagittarius, starting the year as a predawn object. It rises earlier each month, but even by the start of April when Saturn passes  close to Mars, it still doesn’t appear until 2 a.m. Gradually moving into the evening sky, Saturn reaches opposition on June 27. Saturn is a glorious sight in telescopes, and this year its rings are wide open.


Star Watch is a service provided by the Earth and Planetary Sciences program at Western Connecticut State University. Thanks for connecting!