Night Sky In March 2010

- By Rishi Shah

The night skies of this month exhibit the grandeur of the planets and the silent beauty of the stars and the constellations along with many marvels of our universe. As it darkens the zodiacal constellations of Aries (ram), Taurus (Bull), Gemini (twins), Cancer (crab), Leo (lion) and Virgo (maiden) are seen unfurling magnificently across the sky from western to eastern horizon. Constellations Auriga (charioteer) with its conspicuously coruscating star Capella (Brahma Ridaya) that is circa fourty two light-years away is floating dominatingly almost overhead in the evening sky. Constellations Perseus (Greek legendary hero), Andromeda (chained princess) and hazy Lynx (animal) joined by bland camelopardalis (giraffe) are creeping towards western horizon. Weired asterism dubbed Kemble’s cascade containing virutally twenty stars imperceptiblyt in straight row stretching over five times full moon’s width bejewels faint long-necked constellation Camelopardalis. Sandwiched between east of Auriga and north of Perseus and Auriga in the barren realms of sky and looking like exquisitely gleaming beads in a string it seems to run into open star cluster NGC 1502 that houses barely forty five stars with two fine so-called struve. It has been named after astronomy enthusiast Francisacan and amateur astronomer from Saskatchewan, Canada Father Lucian Kemble (1922 - 1999). ngc 1502 is fairly 68 hundred light-years away. Asterism is queer recognized pretty pattern of unrelated stars that do not belong to the official eighty eight constellations. For example the big dipper or plough within Ursa Major (great bear) is one of the remarkably renowned shapes and moon’s diameter is practically four thousand kilometers.

Consisting of modestly one hundred stars that are sheer two hundred million years old the charming open star cluster M34 decorates perseus. It is orbiting in the plane of our galaxy and will eventually disperse due to the gravitational forces during the encounter with our galaxy’s interstellar clouds and stars. It is moderately eighteen hundred light-years away. Experts argue that our Sun could have evolved from similar open star cluster over four billion years ago. Colloquially known as Demon Star, arcane eclipsing binary star Algol glistens bewitchingly in Perseus it is a baffling three-star system in which bigger and bright primary Beta Persei A is regulqarly eclipsed by the dingy Beta Persei B. Its magnitude periodically dips imperceptibly every three days for utter ten hours. Algol is solely nineteen light-years away. Since it is ostensibly resembles the outline of the US State of California, relatively faded emission California Nebula (NGC1499) embellishes Perseus. It is one thousand light-years away. It was discovered by famous American astronomer Edward Emerson Berhnard in 1884.

Detected by famed French astronomer Pierre Mechain in 1780 the attractive planetary little Dumbbell Nebula, (alias Messier76, NGC650/651, Barbell Nebula, or Cork Nebula) adorns Perseus. It is sparsely twenty five hundred light-years away and obtains its name from its look-alike Dumbbell Nebula (M27) in constellation Vulpecula (fox) that occupies the region of sky with striking imaginary summer triangle sketched by lurid stars Deneb, Altair (Sravana) and Vega associated to Cygnus (swan), Aquila (eagle) and Lyra. It is drifting towards us at roughly nineteen kilometers per second.

Pentagon-alike constellation Bootes (herdsman), petite Canes Venatici (hunting dogs) and dinky Coma Bernices (Bernice’s hair) are climbing the eastern sky. Quaint orange red binary giant star Arcturus (Swati) sparkles mystically in Bootes. It is basically thirty eight light-years away. Its surface oscillates slightly and is dashing perculiarly at over one hundred kilometers per second. Its closest approach to Sun would happen in four thousand years. Arcturus is perhaps travellling with a group of fifty two stars.

Planets Mercury and Venus manifest their resplendent presence proudly in western sky after sundown, as they hurry through Pisces. Ruddy planet Mars is glowing fascinatingly in Cancer. Jupiter cna be glimpsed before sunup in Aquarius during the end of month. Ringed planet Saturn arrives at opposition on 21 March.

Signifying the changing seasons, the vernal equinox is experienced on 20 March with Sun crossing directly over earth’s equator from south to north and the duration of day and night is per se being equal worldwide. This date is also important in Christianity, since holy Easter takes place traditionally on that first Sunday after the first full moon after vernal equinox. The new moon falls on 15 March (Ghode Jatra festival), while full moon (Popularly nicknamed full worm moon) occurs on 30 March. Venerated Chaitra Dashain and Ram Navami are respectfully celebrated on 23 and 24 March.

Source: The Rising Nepal, National English Daily, March 3,2010