Saturday, March 11
Although no longer at its brightest, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) remains a small-telescope target at around magnitude 9 in the evening sky. It flies high (40°) above the southwestern horizon an hour after sunset, and tonight lies within ½° of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1637 in Eridanus the River.
The two are located near 4th-magnitude Mu (μ) and Nu (ν) Eridani in the constellation’s northeastern region. Tonight, Comet ZTF lies about 1° due west of Mu and 0.5° due south of NGC 1637. The galaxy is the fainter fuzzball, coming in at 11th magnitude and spanning about 3′ across its (slightly) longer axis. Meanwhile, ZTF may appear mostly round, but with a slightly sharper southern edge and a stubby, wide tail to the north. Can you pick out these subtle features?
Enjoy the pair all evening, though earlier is better — as the night wears on, they’ll sink into the turbulent air near the horizon around the same time as the gibbous Moon begins to rise.
Sunrise: 6:18 A.M.
Sunset: 6:02 P.M.
Moonrise: 10:33 P.M.
Moonset: 8:18 A.M.
Moon Phase: Waning gibbous (83%)
Sunday, March 12
Daylight saving time begins for those regions that observe it this morning at 2 A.M. At that time, clocks will “spring forward” to 3 A.M., meaning the Sun will appear to rise and set an hour later, giving us more daylight later in the day.
The binocular planet Uranus (magnitude 5.8) is roughly 40° high in the west an hour after sunset tonight. It currently sits just over 1° north-northeast of magnitude 5.5 Sigma (σ) Arietis. Appearing as a “flat” blue-gray star, Uranus’ diameter stretches just 3″.
Much more readily visible are the naked-eye planets Venus (20° high an hour after sunset and magnitude –4) and Jupiter (10° high an hour after sunset and magnitude –2.1). Following their early March conjunction, the two planets are now separated by nearly 11°. Venus is now roughly 21° from Uranus — but that’s going to change. Over the next two weeks, the brightest planet in the sky will seem to speed upward night by night, approaching Uranus’ location, which by contrast won’t appear to change much at all. The two planets will meet in a conjunction on the last day of the month.
Sunrise: 7:16 A.M.
Sunset: 7:04 P.M.
Moonset: 9:42 A.M.
Moon Phase: Waning gibbous (75%)