Astronomy in 2009
Axarquia, Costa del Sol, Andalucia, Spain


Commemorating glorious events particularly the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s invention of the telescope
Slogan - The Universe, Yours to Discover
Events during March
· 8th - Saturn at Opposition in Leo.
· 20th - The spring equinox, when the Sun crosses the equator into the northern hemisphere.
· 27th - Venus at Inferior Conunction.
· 29th - Clocks go forward 1 hour for Summertime.
· 31st - Mercury at Superior Conjunction.
· The Moon: Full - 11th, New - 26th
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Mercury Click for more information
Mercury is visible in the twilight morning skies for observors in the tropics and southern hemisphere, until the middle of March. During this period, Mercuryīs magnitude brightens from -0.1 to -0.7.

On 2nd March Mercury passes 0.6š south of Mars and on the 31st the planet passes through superior conjunction.

The best times to observe Mercury in the northen hemisphere are when it is an evening star in the spring and a morning star in the autumn. In midsummer the lighter skies make visibility difficult near the horizon.

The best times to observe Mercury are when it is an evening star in the spring and a morning star in the autumn. In midsummer the lighter skies make visibility difficult near the horizon.

Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Venus Click for more information
Venus continues as a glorious brilliant object in the western evening sky after sunset. The period of visibility varies considerably with latitude. Observors in southern latitudes will only see the planet for the first ten days of March, in tropical latitudes it will be double that period and, as far north as the British Isles it will be seen for all but the last week. For the last ten days of March, as Venus has a high northern ecliptic latitude at this time, the more northerly observors will see her low in the eastern morning sky before dawn although the planet passes through inferior conjunction on the 27th. Magnitude fades to -4.1 by the end of March.

Transit On the 8th June 2004, Venus was at inferior conjunction and transited the sun. Transits of Venus are rare, taking place at greater than 100 year intervals and usually in pairs. The last two transits of Venus were in 1874 and 1882. June's transit began at 7.20h and lasted 6 hours until 13.20h, the total event visible from Europe as a small black disc crossing the lower part of the Sun from left to right. The next transit will be in late June 2012. After that, transits of Venus won't occur again until 2117 and 2125.

Before and after inferior conjuction, when Venus is the closest it comes to the Earth, are the times at which the planet is most brilliant and can be seen setting or rising 4 hours after or before the Sun. The dates of the next two inferior conjunctions are October 28th 2010 and October 26th 2018.
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Mars Click for more information
To observors in the tropics and southern latitudes, at magnitude +1.2 and moving eastwards in Capricorn, Mars is visible as a morning object low above the eastern horizon prior to the brightening twilight inhibiting observation.

Mars passes just 0.76š south of Neptune on 8th March but is not visible in northern latitudes until later in the year.

At opposition on the 28th August 2003, Mars was only 56 million kilometres from the Earth. It showed a disc of 25.1 seconds of arc across which is almost as large as it can ever appear. Mars started 2003 at 310 million kilometres from the earth at 4.5 seconds of arc and 1.6 magnitude. By opposition it brightened 50 times to reach -2.9 magnitude but faded to 0 magnitude by December. Even to the naked eye Mars was a striking object in the summer and autumn sky, easily identifiable by its reddish hue in an area of sky poor in bright stars. Mars will not be as close again until 2018.

These favourable oppositions occur every 15 or 17 years but other oppositions occur at average intervals of 2 years 2 months during which time the planet makes a complete circle of the Earth. In general Mars is observable every other year, being too close to the sun for favourable conditions during other times. Brightness at opposition varies from -1.0 to -2.9 magnitude, and when furthest from the earth it fades to 1.7 magnitude. The planet can be identified by its orange-red colour.

As in 2003, Mars comes nearest to the Earth at oppositions at the end of August. At these times it can be brighter than Jupiter, although low in the sky in Aquarius for northern observors. In the northern hemisphere, the planet may be better seen at oppostions during autumn and winter months when it is higher in the sky.

Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Jupiter Click for more information
At magnitude -2.0, Jupiter is becoming easier to locate in the morning eastern sky. Observors as far north as Britain will not see the planet until the last ten days of March.

Being 770 million kilometres from the sun, the difference in brightness between opposition and conjunction varies less than with Mars, from about -2.8 to -1.8 magnitude. Always a bright planet, Jupiter comes to opposition a month later each year, moving approximately from one zodiacal constellation to the next.

The 4 largest moons of Jupiter are easily visible through a small telescope, ranging from 4.6 to 5.6 in magnitude. The innermost, Io, takes 1.8 days to orbit the planet making its motion easily detectable within a few minutes.

Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Saturn Click for more information
Saturn is now visible throughout the night as it reaches opposition on the 8th March. At just +0.5 magnitude and, although the angular width of the rings has increased to 3 arcseconds since January, this is as wide as they will get for 2009 and the planet is not easy to observe in small instruments.

At its closest approach Saturn is 1,256 million kilometres (780 million miles) from Earth.

Although at opposition, and therefore closest to Earth, Saturn has temorarily lost its beauty as the rings are almost edge-on. This last happened in 1995/1996 and will not re-occur until 2025. Small telescopes will show the ring with difficulty as a thin line of light. The compensation for observing Saturn at this time is that it is ideal for looking at the satellites.

Saturnīs rings continue to close with the south pole presented towards Earth and the far side of the rings no longer appearing clear of the planetīs body. This year the Earth will pass through the ring plane making the rings invisible for a short while. This will be the first time since 1997 that the planetīs magnitude has faded to this level.

Saturn moves more slowly than Jupiter and can remain in the same constellation for several years. The brightness of the planet depends on the aspect of its rings, as well as its distance from Earth and the Sun.

The planet crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere in 1996 where it will remain until 2010 with the southern side of the ring system facing the earth. Because of its distance, its brightness varies little between opposition and conjunction but is affected by the huge ring system. Seen edge on the rings contribute little or no light.

Every 15 years the plane of Saturn's rings passes through the sun, illuminating first the north and then the south side. For a few days the rings are edge on to the sun. About the same time the Earth passes through the ring plane and, depending on the Earth's position, this may happen just once or 3 times. During 1995/96 there was a triple crossing and the next will be 2038/39. The next single crossings will be in 2009 and 2025.

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is visible in small telescopes orbiting outside of the ring system.

Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Uranus Click for more information
Brightness varies slightly reaching 5.6 magnitude at opposition. This is bright enough to see with the naked eye but identifying it against the stars is difficult.
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Neptune Click for more information
Neptune has an average magnitude of 7.9 which varies little with changing distance.
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Pluto Click for more information
No longer an offical planet and never brighter than +13 magnitude, Pluto is only visible through powerful telescopes.
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of the Moon Click for more information
First quarter: 4th
Full moon: 11th
Last quarter: 18th
New moon: 26th
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