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DARK SKY HAPPENINGS - March 2021

Moab UT (at City Hall)
38O34’ N Latitude
109O33’ W Longitude
4048 ft - 1234 m
Taking the Dog Stars for a Springtime Walk: Sirius and Procyon
This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network
by David Prosper

 

Sunrise-Sunset
for March
(The time of sunrise and sunset assumes a flat horizon. Actual time may vary depending upon the landscape.)
DATE SUNRISE SUNSET
Mon, Mar 1 6:48 am 6:12 pm
Tue, Mar 2 6:46 am 6:13 pm
Wed, Mar 3 6:45 am 6:14 pm
Thu, Mar 4 6:43 am 6:15 pm
Fri, Mar 5 6:42 am 6:16 pm
Sat, Mar 6 6:40 am 6:17 pm
Sun, Mar 7 6:39 am 6:18 pm
Mon, Mar 8 6:37 am 6:19 pm
Tue, Mar 9 6:36 am 6:20 pm
Wed, Mar 10 6:34 am 6:21 pm
Thu, Mar 11 6:33 am 6:22 pm
Fri, Mar 12 6:31 am 6:23 pm
Sat, Mar 13 6:30 am 6:24 pm
Sun, Mar 14 7:28 am 7:25 pm
Mon, Mar 15 7:27 am 7:26 pm
Tue, Mar 16 7:25 am 7:27 pm
Wed, Mar 17 7:24 am 7:28 pm
Thu, Mar 18 7:22 am 7:29 pm
Fri, Mar 19 7:21 am 7:30 pm
Sat, Mar 20 7:19 am 7:31 pm
Sun, Mar 21 7:17 am 7:32 pm
Mon, Mar 22 7:16 am 7:33 pm
Tue, Mar 23 7:14 am 7:33 pm
Wed, Mar 24 7:13 am 7:34 pm
Thu, Mar 25 7:11 am 7:35 pm
Fri, Mar 26 7:10 am 7:36 pm
Sat, Mar 27 7:08 am 7:37 pm
Sun, Mar 28 7:06 am 7:38 pm
Mon, Mar 29 7:05 am 7:39 pm
Tue, Mar 30 7:03 am 7:40 pm
Wed, Mar 31 7:02 am 7:41 pm

March skies feature many dazzling stars and constellations, glimmering high in the night, but two of the brightest stars are the focus of our attention this month: Sirius and Procyon, the dog stars!

Sirius is the brightest star in the nighttime sky, in large part because it is one of the closest stars to our solar system at 8.6 light years away. Compared to our Sun, Sirius possesses twice the mass and is much younger. Sirius is estimated to be several hundred million years old, just a fraction of the Sun’s 4.6 billion years.

Near Sirius -around the width of a hand with fingers spread out, held away at arm’s length -you’ll find Procyon, the 8th brightest star in the night sky. Procyon is another one of our Sun’s closest neighbors, though a little farther away than Sirius, 11.5 light years away. While less massive than Sirius, it is much older and unusually luminous for a star of its type, leading astronomers to suspect that it may “soon” –at some point millions of years from now –swell into a giant star as it nears the end of its stellar life.

Sirius and Procyon are nicknamed the “Dog Stars,” an apt name as they are the brightest stars in their respective constellations –Canis Major and Canis Minor –whose names translate to “Big Dog” and ”Little Dog.” Not everyone sees them as canine companions. As two of the brightest stars in the sky, they feature prominently in the sky stories of cultures around the world.

Sirius also captures the imaginations of people today: when rising or setting near the horizon, its brilliance mixes with our atmosphere’s turbulence, causing the star’s light to shimmer with wildly flickering color. This vivid, eerie sight was an indication to ancient peoples of changes in the seasons, and even triggers UFO reports in the modern era! Both of these bright stars have unseen companions: tiny, dense white dwarf stars, the remnants of supermassive companion stars.

Careful observations of these nearby systems over hundreds of years have helped advance the fields of: astrometry, the precise measurement of stars; stellar evolution; and astroseismology, the study of the internal structure of stars via their oscillations.

Moab Dark Skies’ mission is to promote the appreciation and conservation of Moab’s valuable and rare dark skies. Moab Dark Skies was established by the Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks in conjunction with the National Park Service and Utah State Parks Division of Natural Resources.

For more information, check out our Facebook page.

MOON HAPPENINGS
Mar 13 - New Moon at 3:21 am
Mar 21 - First Quarter at 8:40 am
Mar 28 - Full Moon at 12:48 pm

 
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