Sky events for March 2013
March 1 – Sunrise 6:35 a.m. and sunset at 5:47 p.m.; moon 0.1 degrees below Spica 1 a.m.
March 2 – Moon 3.0 degrees below Saturn at 9 a.m.
March 4 – Last quarter moon overhead at sunrise.
March 5 – Moon at perigee (229,881 miles) at 5:19 p.m.
March 9 – Comet PanSTARRS (Don’t miss it!); also, turn clocks ahead one hour before bed.
March 10 – Daylight saving time starts.
March 11 – New moon always rises/sets in the sun.
March 17 – Moon 1.5 degrees below Jupiter at 8 p.m.
March 18 – Moon at apogee (251,196 miles) at 10:13 p.m.
March 19 – First quarter moon overhead at sunset.
March 20 – Spring starts at 6:02 a.m.
March 27 – Full moon always rises/sets as sun sets/rises.
March 30 – Sunrise at 6:41 a.m. and sunset 7:25 p.m.
Naked eye comet PanSTARRS
Discovered on June 6, 2011, comet PanSTARRS (officially catalogued as C/2011 L4) carries the name of the telescope and observing program used to discover it, rather than the name of a person. The last bright comet for Portage County was in March and April of 1997 (comet Hale-Bopp). Predictions suggest that PanSTARRS will reach magnitude -1.0 (which is six times brighter than the brightest naked-eye stars), just as it enters Portage County skies, around March 9. The long tail will not be visible until it climbs into a darker sky each day.
PanSTARRS is falling in from the distant Oort cloud on its first visit to the inner solar system. Since it has no track record it could be a bust or erupt into a surprising spectacle. Portage County should be able the catch the comet on March 6 or 7, but March 10 is the date the comet passes closest to the sun in its orbit, thus is undergoing maximum heating and should be brightest.