Ad Spot

Grab some coffee and enjoy the predawn show

By Deane Morrison

In March, the action in the predawn sky really picks up. The month opens with Mars, Jupiter and Saturn forming a straight line, in that order from right to left, above the southeastern horizon. On the 4th, the three planets are spaced almost evenly apart.

But that neat arrangement soon gives way as the planets switch positions. Jupiter and Saturn are about to leapfrog past Mars, and all because Mars, being the closest to the sun, orbits the fastest.

What’s happening is that Earth’s orbit is carrying us eastward and thus toward all these planets, making them move higher and westward. But Mars’s own orbit carries it much more rapidly eastward against the background of stars than the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn carry those planets.

As a result, Mars resists the westward movement imposed by Earth’s orbit and appears to sail eastward toward—and past—the two giant planets. Actually, though, Mars is mostly holding its own as Jupiter and Saturn sail past it on their westward journey.

Have a look on the 18th, when Jupiter and Mars make a close pair while a crescent moon hangs right below them. The next morning, Jupiter and Mars will be closer yet and the moon will now appear below Saturn. On the 20th, Jupiter passes a mere 0.7 degrees—slightly more than a moon width—above Mars. On the 31st, the ringed planet passes about a degree above the red planet. In April the new lineup will be, from right to left, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, with the gap between Mars and the other two planets rapidly widening.

In the evening sky, a young moon comes out below Venus on the 26th and 27th. And don’t miss the show as the brilliant planet and the Pleiades star cluster approach each other in the last week of March. Mark your calendars for April 2nd and 3rd, when Venus glides, spectacularly, in front of the Pleiades. Be sure to have binoculars handy.

March’s full moon shines the night of the 9th. It will be big and bright, though more than six hours past full when it rises that evening.

Spring arrives with the vernal equinox at 10:50 p.m. on the 19th. At that moment the sun crosses the equator into the northern sky and Earth will be lighted from pole to pole.

Twin Cities, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics: www.astro.umn.edu/outreach/pubnight

Check out astronomy programs, free telescope events, and planetarium shows at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum: www.bellmuseum.umn.edu/astronomy

Find U of M astronomers and links to the world of astronomy at http://www.astro.umn.edu

Mower County

Minnesota governor rolls out COVID-19 data dashboard website

Health

Mayo reviewing plans for hospitals in event of surge

Mower County

Area placed in winter weather advisory

Mower County

County cases remain at 15, state cases rise to 789

News

US sheds 701,000 jobs, ending a record-long hiring streak

Mower County

Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Schools likely closed for the year

Business

‘They really care to keep us around’

Mower County

South central Minn. scouts raise $6,525 from drive

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

Decorah, Iowa man charged with sexually abusing juvenile male

News

Bad weather, trade wars, keep lid on Minnesota farm income

News

Economic fallout mounts along with competition for gear

Mower County

Walz names Ramsey County Judge Frisch to Court of Appeals

Mower County

15th case of COVID-19 confirmed in Mower County

Business

Hormel host live virtual concert:

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

Officials warning of pain relief, COVID-19 phone scams

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

1 taken into custody after incident reportedly involving a gun

News

Latest on COVID-19 in Minnesota: Community transmission biggest cause

News

A record 6.6 million seek US jobless aid as layoffs mount

Mower County

Pushing Forward: Salvation Army here to help, starting to feel the pinch

Mower County

Despite pandemic, census count is still ongoing

Health

Forecast projects Minnesota to hit COVID-19 peak by mid-April

Brownsdale

Third generation Akkerman takes the reins

Mower County

Photos: Providing isolation relief

Mower County

Autism events taking new path in April