Huestis: “March”-ing into Spring Saying Goodbye to the Winter Sky
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
While we are still a couple of months away from the return of Jupiter to the early evening sky during public observing sessions at the local observatories, March does provide us an opportunity to observe our solar system’s two innermost planets to the Sun. I’m talking about Venus and Mercury.
At the beginning of March these planets will be visible in evening twilight just above the western horizon after sunset. Venus will be the brighter of the two objects. On the 3rd Mercury will be about one degree (two full moon diameters) to the right of Venus. Each evening they will rise higher into the sky, though Mercury will very noticeably increase its separation from Venus rather quickly as they do so. On the evenings of the 16th and 17th Mercury will be at its highest elevation above the horizon. Then on the 18th a waxing crescent Moon will complement the Venus and Mercury sky scene. Each evening thereafter Mercury will begin descending the sky towards the horizon and will soon be lost in bright twilight. Venus will continue its ascent into the sky as the month progresses.
Through a telescope Venus will appear almost fully illuminated like a full moon for the entire month. While Mercury will start out nearly in full phase as March begins, its phase will quickly change as it dips back towards the horizon and the Sun. By the 22nd, when Mercury will once again be to the right of Venus, his phase will look like that of a waxing crescent Moon.
An important date to remember is Sunday, March 11. This day is when most of the United States set clocks ahead one hour to Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) at 2:00am. This annual ritual is known as Daylight Saving Time. Don’t forget to do so or you’ll be late for any Sunday morning function.
Another important day is March 20. At 12:15pm the vernal equinox (equal day and night) occurs. Spring begins in the northern hemisphere. Since the Winter Solstice observance back on December 21 the Sun has been steadily moving northward in our sky. On the vernal equinox if you were standing at a location on the Earth’s equator the Sun would be directly overhead (zenith) at local noon. We look forward to longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures.
However, it is not too late to say goodbye to the winter constellations. It was so cold and windy this past winter that I did not spend much time observing some of the brightest and most recognizable star patterns in the sky. In fact, the winter sky contains seven of the 23 brightest stars we can see from the Earth.
There is a huge winter sky asterism formed by combining some of the brightest stars of six constellations. It’s called the Winter Circle or Winter Hexagon. Please reference the accompanying star map. Betelgeuse, though inside either pattern, is still considered part of the asterism.
Second, a star’s distance is measured in light years. One light year is equal to just less than six trillion miles. Third, the spectral classification of a star is defined using the following letters: O, B, A, F, G, K, or M, and often followed by additional numbers and letters to further refine the classification. “O” stars are the hottest while “M” stars are the coolest.
Let’s start our tour of the Winter Circle with the brightest star we can see in the sky (besides the Sun of course) — Sirius. Sirius is in Canis Major, the Big Dog. Sirius shines at magnitude -1.44 and it is 8.7 light years away. Do the math and this fairly close neighbor to our Sun is 52.2 trillion miles from us. For you Rhode Islanders that’s much farther than Woonsocket or Westerly! Sirius is a hot, blue-white star (spectral class A0) about 1.7 times the diameter of our Sun.
Next we move northward and clockwise in the sky to locate Procyon in Canis Minor, the Little Dog. Procyon is a white star (F5) shining at magnitude +0.40 and is 11 light years distant. It’s about twice the diameter of our Sun. Moving farther northward we encounter the Gemini twins, Pollux and Castor. Pollux is 34 light years distant, while Castor is 18 light years farther away at 52. Pollux is a cool, orange giant (K0) ten times the Sun’s diameter, while Castor is a hot, blue-white star (A1) only twice the diameter of the Sun. Pollux and Castor shine at +1.16 and +1.93 magnitude respectively.
Now we swing up and over to a constellation almost directly overhead — Auriga, where we find +1.93 magnitude Capella. While Capella (G6) is a class “G”-type yellow star like the Sun (G2), it has three times more mass and is just over seven times the Sun’s diameter. Next we proceed south to encounter the orange giant (K5) Aldebaran in Taurus. Aldebaran represents the bull’s eye in the star pattern known as the Hyades star cluster (shaped like a “V”). Aldebaran, 65 light years away, is a cool star which has expanded to be just over 44 times the diameter of the Sun with only 2.5 times our Sun’s mass.
Continue to swing southward in the sky until we arrive at the bottom right star representing Orion’s left foot. (Please note: Orion is facing us.) This star is +0.18 magnitude Rigel, a blue supergiant (B8) 800 light years away — the most distant of the Winter Circle stars. Rigel is 62 times the diameter of our Sun and contains 17 times more mass. We now complete the tour of the Winter Circle by swinging back to Sirius.
But wait. No, I didn’t forget about Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse is the red supergiant (M2) star that marks the top right shoulder of Orion. It shines at magnitude +0.45 and resides at a distance of 520 light years. Betelgeuse is also a very large star, measuring in at a conservative 950 solar diameters. If you replaced our Sun with Betelgeuse it would extend out to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
As you can see by this small sampling of stars that comprise the Winter Circle, stars are quite a lot like people. They are all different, but their differences make them unique and important.
The next time you have an opportunity to observe the Winter Circle, you will have a better understanding and appreciation of the scale and diversity of our stellar neighbors in this region of the Milky Way Galaxy.
While you do not require a telescope to appreciate the magnificence of the bright stars comprising the Winter Circle, when Jupiter, Mars and Saturn return to the mid-evening sky the views of these planets from the local observatories and their fine instruments will reward you with incredible images. Seagrave Memorial Observatory in North Scituate is open every clear Saturday night. Ladd Observatory in Providence is open every clear Tuesday night. The Margaret M. Jacoby Observatory at the CCRI Knight Campus in Warwick is open every clear Thursday night. Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown is open every clear Friday night.
Keep your eyes to the skies.
Related Slideshow: Some of the Most Interesting GoLocal LIVE Interviews—The First 1,000
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny, former Prime Minister - the Taoiseach - of Ireland, joined GoLocal LIVE to discuss the growing trade opportunities sparked by the new direct air travel between Rhode Island's T.F. Green via Norwegian Air.
Kenny has been instrumental with his support for the Ireland West International Trade Center in Rhode Island and the RI Trade Center in Mayo.
At the time of the interview, a Rhode Island trade mission was visiting Ireland led in part by Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, who also appeared on LIVE.
Kenny served as Prime Minister from 2011 until earlier 2017.
Amanda Clayton, Actress
Johnston native Amanda Clayton was almost ready to give up on her acting dreams when she got the call to travel to Atlanta to meet Tyler Perry and test-read with other actors for the then-new show “If Loving You Is Wrong," an opportunity that has been life and career changing for Clayton.
Having moved to New York at 19, five days before 9/11, she studied on-camera acting at New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts and eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue film and TV opportunities in Hollywood.
She appeared in Disney’s “John Carter," multiple TV appearances like NCIS: New Orleans, Major Crimes, and The Mentalist, and as Vinny Pazienza’s sister in “Bleed for This” filmed and based right here in Rhode Island.
Clayton just finished a Lifetime Movie “Mommy’s Little Angel”, coming out next year, and finished a role behind-the-scenes as a producer for “Dirty Dead Con Men.”
“If Loving You Is Wrong” airs Tuesday nights on OWN.
Billy Gilman, Grammy Nominee
When your career begins at age 11 as the youngest artist to reach #1 on the Billboard charts and continues on through adulthood, it’s almost difficult to believe one could still have professional firsts, but RI native and “The Voice” Alum, Billy Gilman, did just that with his first ever arena concert at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
Johanne Killeen, Al Forno
Johanne Killeen of Al Forno shared both the story on GoLocal LIVE's "The Taste," of how grilled pizza began -- as well as the announcement on her new cookbook highlighting pizza.
She told the story of how one of America's greatest restaurants was started and where it is going in the future.
South African Penguins
Mystic Aquarium’s Penguin Trainers Eric Fox and Josh Davis visited GoLocal LIVE with Blue-Purple and Blue-Red penguins, talking about how you can help the Endangered South African species.
They also discussed trips to South Africa, what it’s like working with penguins, and what’s on the penguin’s lunch menu.
Mystic Aquarium’s mission is to inspire people to care for and protect the ocean planet through education, conservation and research. To help accomplish that mission, Mystic Aquarium offers educational opportunities and fundraising events to continue their conservation work and teach the public about the ocean’s creatures.
Jai Rodriguez, Actor
“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” alum, Jai Rodriguez, joined GoLocal LIVE to talk about his new show “Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man’’ currently running in Vegas until January of 2018.
Rodriguez co-stars in the audience-participation heavy live show with reality TV personality, Kendra Wilkinson, and says the subject matter of the show is perfect for the crowd in Vegas.
Rodriguez will also be appearing on the new CBS drama “Wisdom of the Crowd” and makes a cameo as Margaret Cho’s Husband in “Sharknato 5.”
Governor Lincoln Chafee
Lincoln Chafee, former Mayor, U.S. Senator and Governor, took Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s administration to task for promoting economic growth by funneling tax dollars to some of America’s richest corporations, in one of a number of appearances on GoLocal LIVE.
Appearing on GoLocal LIVE with GoLocal News Editor Kate Nagle, Chafee said the Raimondo’s transfer of taxpayers dollars to billion dollar companies such as General Electric and Johnson & Johnson was flawed.
“I have never liked corporate welfare. It's unfair to existing businesses…some out of state business comes in and you give them the candy store. I just don’t like it," said Chafee.
Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero
As only the 10th person to serve as the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero said it’s been amazing to learn responsibilities of the position and get to know the staff at the National Archives. He appeared on GoLocal LIVE with Molly O'Brien at GoLocal's downtown Providence studio.
“The most exciting thing is getting to know the records and getting to know the richness of the documentation that tells our country’s history, starting with the oaths of allegiance signed at Valley Forge by George Washington and the troops, all the way up to the tweets that are being created as I am speaking, in the White House,” Ferriero said.
Walt Mossberg, Top Tech Journalist
Who are five of the most influential people to change personal technology? The most important journalist gave his insight on personal tech to date and outlined where we are going.
Super tech journalist and Rhode Island native Walt Mossberg appeared on GoLocal LIVE with GoLocal's News Editor Kate Nagle.
"Well, it was a combination of really important people - and really important technology," said Mossberg. "It took too long for the computer industry to get the memo that these things had to be usable without reading manuals."
Mossberg, who served as the principal technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal from 1991 to 2013, founded AllThingsD, Recode, and the D and Code Conferences, and from 2015 to 2017, was Executive Editor of The Verge.
Gretchen Morgenson, Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist
Gretchen Morgenson, a top financial writer for the New York Times [now the Wall Street Journal], joined GoLocal LIVE just hours after her newspaper published her investigative piece that unveiled that claims that financial giant TIAA was involved in improper financial practices took on new momentum.
Rhode Island’s Treasurer Seth Magaziner has nearly $700 million invested with TIAA.
Morgenson was first to report that, “New York’s attorney general has subpoenaed TIAA, the giant insurance company, and investment firm, seeking documents and information relating to its sales practices…”
In October, she wrote a sweeping investigative piece that raised questions about TIAA’s selling strategies. “The subpoena to TIAA, which handles retirement accounts for over four million workers at 15,000 nonprofit institutions across the country, followed an article last month in The New York Times that raised questions about the firm’s selling techniques,” wrote Morgenson.
On GoLocal LIVE, Morgenson told News Editor Kate Nagle in a Skype interview, “I think clients in all states should be worried -- Mr. [Seth] Magaziner should do a little more investigation into this to assure himself and the people in Rhode Island in these plans - that what TIAA is [telling them] is correct.”
Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Ron Powers said his recent book, “No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America” is one he promised himself he would never write.
The book is based on the true story of his two sons' struggles with mental illness. Both were diagnosed with Schizophrenia as young men.
While deeply personal, Powers gave insight on the battles his sons’ fought and details into their family life. He also looked at the history of mental illness, including incarceration, medication and more.
"I was determined to give the mentally ill, invisible to much of society and often denied the very basic acknowledgment of their own humanity, a voice,” Powers said.
Powers is the author or co-author of 14 previous books, including New York Times bestselling “Flags of our Fathers” and “True Compass."
Lidia Bastianich, Chef and Author
Lidia Bastianich, Emmy award-winning chef, restaurateur, and author joined GoLocal LIVE's The Taste with Rick Simone.
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE
Bastianich explained how she was inspired by family traditions and how she first got into the culinary world. She has since carried on her passion and it now has involved to include her whole family in all her endeavors.
Big news -- Bastianich announced that Eataly could be opening in Toronto, Canada in 2018.
Piff the Magic Dragon
Magician and comedian Piff the Magic Dragon appeared on LIVE before he performed five shows at the Comedy Connection in East Providence over Labor Day Weekend.
“New show, all new jokes, all new tricks, same dog,” Piff said. “Mr. Piffles will be doing a lot of mind reading. He’s got his whole new act with The Dog Who Knows and he’ll be attempting to see all and know all. Ask him anything and he’ll tell you.”
Known for his dry sense of humor and rescue K-9 sidekick Mr. Piffles, Piff gained worldwide attention after his success on season 10 of America’s Got Talent.
Although Piff didn’t win that season, he’s made guest appearances on America’s Got Talent, racked up 50 million YouTube views, and recently extended his show at the Flamingo in Las Vegas until the end of 2018.
Jean Lesieur, French Journalist
Leading French journalist Jean Lesieur has appeared twice on GoLocal LIVE.
He is a novelist and a co-founder of France 24, the French version of CNN, warned of the rise of Trump and nationalism.
“He is the symptom and agent of the emerging nationalism. And, nationalism should not be considered patriotism. Patriotism is the love of your own. Nationalism is the hatred of others,” said Lesieur at the Hope Club.
In a sweeping discussion with GoLocal, he spoke about Europe in the Brexit, the Trump relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and the wild French election campaign.
Patrick Kennedy, Former Congressman
Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy spoke with GoLocal LIVE about efforts in Rhode Island in 2017 to legalize marijuana - and what he said is the country’s crisis of addiction, and why he is opposed to marijuana legalization.
“We’re going through an epidemic of addiction and depression…and we’re in the midst of the rollback the biggest expansion of healthcare coverage that benefits people with mental illness [and] addiction, and this was the first time the ever got coverage,” Kennedy told GoLocal’s Kate Nagle on Wednesday.
“We ought to think do we want to throw gasoline on the fire,” said Kennedy, of legalizing marijuana in Rhode Island. “We know what’s happened with other addictive substances where’s basically there’s no perception of ‘risk’ — alcohol is ubiquitous; tobacco, until the settlements, there was no appetite for addressing [the impact of that].”
“Going down this road of adding a new intoxicant is not a good thing,” said Kennedy.
Beverly Daniel Tatum, Former Spelman College President
Former president of Spelman College, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., is one of the nation’s leading experts on race, and the psychology of race.
Tatum recently released a fully revised and updated edition of her bestselling book “Why Are the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race.”
In an interview with LIVE, Tatum said it’s important to have conversations about race and listen for opportunities to have natural discussions.
“We can’t solve a problem if we can’t talk about it,” the Brock International Prize in Education winner said.
To make a change, she said, we all have a role to play and each of us has an opportunity.
“We all have a sphere of influence. Everybody influences someone, and we should not be afraid to use that influence to bring about the changes we hope to see,” she said.
Mark Baillie, Top British Security Expert
Terrorism and international relations expert Mark Baillie of King's College in London's War Studies Department spoke with GoLocal's Kate Nagle regarding the post-Manchester landscape in England - and the world.
"The young guy...did it in his mother's basement. Any lone actor can make a powerful bomb," said Baillie following the terrorism incident. "We're in the midst of a general election where politicians talk about there being no political or cultural backlash."
"And estimated 300 people are 'ready to go' - 400 who have been fighting with Isis in Syria -- and in a group of about 20,000 supporters," noted Baillie of the UK landscape, calling Manchester and acts like it the "terrorism of the mundane" -- and much more frightening than "spectacular" acts of terrorism.
Baillie, who runs seminars on a wide range of security matters at King's and at the UK Joint Staff College, has lived or worked in more than 14 countries in the fields of news, security, finance, economics, business and politics and appears widely in international news media on terrorism and international security.
Mark Geragos, Celebrity Attorney
Geragos is one of Hollywood's biggest celebrity lawyers having represented rapper Chris Brown and Michael Jackson over the years. When asked about his relationship with the often legal troubled Brown, Geragos said that the rapper is "like a son and an annuity" to him.
In reference to a lawsuit that he is representing Alex and Ani over, Geragos said, "For lack of a better word, we've got a couple of knuckleheads, [and] it's not at the forefront of anything we're worried about."
"Unfortunately when you become successful people want to take an elevator to the penthouse and that won't happen here, trust me," said Geragos.
Geragos explained how he met Alex and Ani CEO Carolyn Rafaelian - and spoke to how the "company culture" brought him in.
"I was at a charity event at Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineyard -- she was doing a fundraiser for an Armenian orphanage," said Geragos. "They have a unique blend of doing humanitarian work...Carolyn was the hit in New York this week."
Model, entrepreneur and activist Gisele Bündchen, co-anchor of Good Morning America Robin Roberts; and Rafaelian were among the women recognized Tuesday in New York City by the David Lynch Foundation (DLF), a global charitable organization that addresses the epidemic of trauma and toxic stress amongst at-risk populations.
Each week, GoLocal LIVE features an amazing group of experts in Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.
Robert Whitcomb, former Editorial Page Editor of the Providence Journal, now GoLocalProv columnist
Gary Sasse, "The Money Man," an expert on state and federal fiscal policy
Jennifer Lawless, Director of the Women & Politics Institute and Professor of Political Science at American University
Ray Rickman, Former State Representative, Deputy Secretary of State, and Civil Rights Leader
Kristin MacRae, Organizing Expert
Saul Kaplan, Business Innovation Expert
Robin Garceau, Interior Design Expert
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