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Skywatch for the week of March 25, 2024

Skywatch Monday 3-25-2024.mp3


The moon is full today. This is the Paschal moon, the first full moon following the beginning of spring, and according to the Church calendar the Sunday that follows this full moon is Easter. This is also the sap moon, a time when the sap of the maple tree was tapped and sugared down for its syrup. The Celts call this the Big Winds moon, same as the Choctaw Indians. To the Algonquin Indians it is the crust moon, because frequent thawing and refreezing of snow on the ground formed an icy crust.


SkywatchTuesday 3-26-2024.mp3


It’s springtime, but there are still some winter constellations up in the sky this evening. Orion the Hunter, Taurus the Bull, the Big and Little Dogs, Auriga the Charioteer and the Gemini Twins have slipped over into the west, as new star groups like the Big Dipper and Leo the Lion take their places in the eastern sky. Soon the bright stars Arcturus and Spica will rise. If you want to keep up-to-date with sky events like this, there is a great local astronomy club that can help: it’s called the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society, and in addition to having star parties and sky watching events for their members, the club is open to the public. They’ll meet tonight at 7:30 pm at the Science Center Auditorium, that’s in the N building, on the main Fort Pierce campus of Indian River State College.


Skywatch Wednesday 3-27-2024.mp3

Wed Mar 27, 2024 ROBERT FROST

The American poet Robert Frost turned 150 yesterday. Born on March 26th, 1874, Frost wrote a lot about the natural world, and about astronomy. In his poem, "The Star Splitter." He tells us of a man who bought a telescope, saying "The best thing that we're put here for's to see; The strongest thing that's given us to see with's A telescope. Someone in every town Seems to me owes it to the town to keep one. Often he bid me - come and have a look - Up the brass barrel, velvet black inside, At a star quaking in the other end. That telescope was christened the Star-Splitter, Because it didn't do a thing but split A star in two or three...” Frost was referring to the telescope’s ability to resolve detail, and reveal fainter stars not visible to the human eye alone.


Skywatch Thursday 3-28-2024.mp3


By now most of us have recovered from the semiannual trauma of converting from Standard Time to Daylight saving Time. We’ve run our clocks ahead an hour to compensate for the extra daylight we get early in the morning, thanks to the longer path our sun travels through the sky as we approach summer. This may be a great idea for most folks, but astronomers now have to wait an extra hour for the sun to set, and we call it darkness wasting time. There has been some talk lately of either abolishing daylight saving time, or abolishing standard time. An article in the Washington Post favored getting rid of Standard Time altogether. That was actually tried back in January 1974; but the extended early morning darkness resulted in a 17% increase in early morning traffic fatalities - so we went back to Standard Time.


Skywatch Friday 3-29-2024.mp3

Fri Mar 29, 2024 OUT WITH THE RAM

The old saying, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” refers to the improving weather in the springtime of the year. But there is also an astronomical connection. In early March, the constellation Leo the Lion appears in the east after sunset. As the month progresses, Leo is a little higher in the sky each night, while in the west, winter constellations sink toward the horizon. By the end of March, one of our winter constellations makes its exit in the western sky. For the past few weeks, the sun has been steadily encroaching on this constellation, due to the earth’s revolution. Now the sun is about to pass between us and the constellation Aries the Ram. March comes in with the Lion and goes out with the Ram.