A Hare in the sky, chance to see Ceres, and morning satellite views!

We are leaping along and winter has only a few weeks left, so it is a good time to catch Orion and his stellar companions.  This week we look for one that is right beneath his feet.  Here is your guide to the sky for February 27 –March 5, 2017…

Sun – Earth – Moon

Sunrise this week is at 6:12 am and sunset at 5:23 pm. Our daylight hours are increasing, and we are only a few weeks away from the Spring Equinox where we have equal amounts of daylight and night.  The Moon is at perigee (its closest point to Earth this cycle) on March 3rd   First Quarter Moon takes place on Sunday at 6:32 am.


Venus is a bright beacon n the western sky and will set at 8:15 pm, while reddish Mars is visible to around 9:00 pm.  For a challenge you might try finding Uranus which is at the limit of human site.  It will be half a degree (the width of the Full Moon) south of Mars on Monday night.   A crescent Moon is 4 degrees from Mars on Wednesday evening.  Thursday evening provides a chance to see the asteroid Ceres which will be 1 degree north of the Moon – is ninth magnitude so you will need binoculars to see it. Use this link to help you find it and then check out the new planetarium program in March which explores asteroids. Jupiter rises around 8:45 pm east and is visible in the constellation of Virgo.  Saturn rises in the eastern sky around 2:15 am.

March 1, 2017 at 8pm - Star Chart provided by Heavens-Above.com

March 1, 2017 at 8pm – Star Chart provided by Heavens-Above.com

Constellation of the Week

Winter is the season for Orion and it is hard to miss his dramatic seven stars high in the south after sunset.  One of his lesser known companions is beneath his feet, and is one of the creatures he hunts – Lepus the Hare.  This group is a bit faint, but if you go directly beneath Orion’s stars of Rigel and Saiph, and to the west of Canis Major (Orion’s larger dog) you can find this stellar creature.  Its stars make a slight rectangle shape, and some folks say it looks like the head of a hare or rabbit.  Do give it a try!

Satellites to see

The International Space Station has some nice early morning passes this week.  On Tuesday look for it from 5:25 to 5:28 am moving from south to east.  Thursday see it from 5:14 to 5:20 am moving from southwest to east.  Friday you can see it from 4:23 to 4:27 am moving from south to east, and Saturday it makes its brightest pass of the week from 5:05 to 5:12 am moving from southwest to northeast.  See it from 4:15 to 4:19 am on Sunday morning moving from south to east.

March Planetarium Shows

Asteroid: Mission Extreme - image provided by Emera Astronomy Center

Asteroid: Mission Extreme – image provided by Emera Astronomy Center

Emera Astronomy Center launches a new show in March called Asteroid: Mission Extreme takes audiences on an epic journey to discover how asteroids are both a danger and an opportunity. The danger lies in the possibility of a cataclysmic collision with Earth; the opportunity is the fascinating idea that asteroids could be stepping stones to other worlds enabling us to cross the Solar System.  The program is narrated by Sigourney Weaver and features as always a tour of the night sky as viewed here from Maine.  It shows on Friday evenings in March at 7pm.  Our children’s program is One World, One Sky: Big Birds Adventure and students join Elmo and Big Bird to learn about day and night, explore the Moon, and find the North Star and Big Dipper.  See Emera Astronomy Center website for details.


Our days have been warming this past week, and the skies have been clear at night, so get out there and take a few minutes to enjoy our Maine Skies. Spring is only a few weeks away, so do make sure you catch the winter constellations while you have a chance to do so.  Happy stargazing and keep your eye on the sky!

Shawn Laatsch

About Shawn Laatsch

Shawn Laatsch is the director of the Emera Astronomy Center and Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine. He started his astronomy education career in 1984 and has directed planetariums in university and science center facilities, taught undergraduate astronomy courses, and given numerous lectures around the globe. He serves as President (2017 & 2018) of the International Planetarium Society, Inc. the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals. Shawn has a passion for sharing astronomy and stargazing with people of all ages.