What’s up for March 2015

Venus and Jupiter shine in the Eastern skies over Mount Baker at sunset. Saturn shines over Metchosin in the western sky at dawn

The Salish Walk of the Planets: Don’t forget that not only do the sun and moon rise in the east over Mount Baker, and set 12 hours later in the west, over Metchosin, but so do all the planets visible this month. The path they take is an arc in the sky which I call “The Salish Walk of the Planets”.

The astronomy community call the “walk” the “ecliptic”.

Last week whilst waiting for spouse Liz on a delayed flight from Toronto late one evening, I explored the outside of YYJ.

I discovered a perfect place to look at the dark sky. I sat at a picnic bench just west of the arrival baggage area by the outside fence. It’s an ideal place in the future for one of those BC Ferries telescope/binocular setups.

Within 15 minutes my eyes became used to the dark and suddenly I could see the Milky Way and every constellation. It was stunning. Even the bright lights from the tarmac arrival concourse area were easily hidden by my own hand. But it was the planets which caught my attention. There was super bright Jupiter rising around 9 p.m. in the east over Mount Baker. And Venus next to Mars getting ready to set in the western sky over Metchosin.

The ecliptic (or Salish Walk of the Planets) was so clear following a line across the roof of night sky  from Jupiter across to Venus.

This month, on Sunday March 15, we invite all our readers to meet at the Oak Bay Municipal Hall at 10 a.m. to join us on our inaugural Oak Bay Walk of the Inner Planets.

We plan to tread this Salish Walk of the Planets from Jupiter (Municipal Hall) via Mars (Gonzales Hill), Earth (Blueberry Hill)  and Venus (Oak Bay Native Plant Garden/Oak Bay Beach Hotel), finally reaching Mercury (Willows Park). It’s a fun and easy two-hour walk.

The Municipal Hall becomes Europa for the day. Europa is the moon of Jupiter, and our starting point. Europa is where NASA believes there might be life under the ice. Around 10 a.m. Hilary Coupland and Doreen Hall lead everyone on the trek around the inner planets.

So March evenings see Jupiter over Mount Baker, and Venus and Mars, in the west, over Metchosin. If you keep looking throughout the evening you will see Jupiter take the “Salish Walk of the Planets” rising high from the east then setting in the west 12 hours later.

By March 21, at dusk, a young, waxing, crescent moon pairs up with Mars just under Venus in the west over Metchosin.

And highly unusual, March mornings see Mercury rising in the east.

Finally see the golden planet Saturn rising in the southeast over Bellingham about one hour after midnight in early March and one hour before midnight by the month’s end.

Binoculars don’t reveal Saturn’s gorgeous rings. For that, you need a small telescope.

Dark skies to all friends of Cattle Point Star Park.

This summary is from the transcript of “What’s Up In March 2015” by NASA announcer and astronomer Jane Houston Jones with specific permission for localization to Cattle Point Urban Star Park and the Oak Bay News.

Bill Smith is a volunteer at the Cattle Point Dark Sky Urban Star Park.