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Mario Carr, Hamilton Amateur Astronomers

THE SKY THIS MONTH: Maybe a comet in March

If the recent Russian meteorite hit downtown Hamilton, everything within a 25 kilometre radius would be wiped out. That would include Burlington, Waterdown, Dundas and Stoney Creek.

NASA predicts that larger meteorites hit the Earth every five years and smaller objects hit us five to 10 times a year. Fortunately, most fall onto uninhabited areas and oceans since they make up the majority of the Earth’s surface.

To learn more about meteorites, the Haldimand County Museum in Cayuga is having an exhibit called Catch a Falling Star until April 15. Special thanks to Ray Watts and the International Meteorite Collector’s Association for the loan of the exhibit.

If you’re lucky, in March you could see Comet PanSTARRS. Unfortunately, comets can be unpredictable. As they move closer to the heat of the sun, they could either fizzle out or become brilliant.

If it becomes brilliant, you could see it as a naked eye object low in the western sky at twilight on March 7 or 8. On March 9, it could be at its best. On March 12, the waxing moon is expected to group with the comet low in the evening sky.

For most of the month, only two planets are visible. Jupiter can be seen high in the western sky setting near midnight and Saturn rises late evening.

Other skywatching events next month include:

• March 1 – The waxing moon is just below Saturn around midnight in the southeast.

• March 8 – Hamilton Amateur Astronomers meeting 7:30-9:30 p.m., Spectator building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton. Free admission with door prizes. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods will be collected. Special guest speaker will be Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn, Adventures in astrophotography.

• March 10 – Daylight Saving Time begins.

• March 16 – The crescent moon groups with the Pleiades in the evening sky.

• St. Patrick’s Day — The waxing moon groups with Jupiter and Aldebaran high in the western evening twilight sky.

• March 18 – Jupiter groups with Aldebaran in the evening sky.

• March 20 – Spring finally arrives with the vernal equinox at 7:02 a.m.

• March 22 – Hamilton Amateur Astronomers Telescope Clinic 7:30-9:30 p.m., Spectator building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton. Free admission, optional food bank donation. If you have a telescope, members will show you how to use it. Planispheres will be given out.

• March 27 – The full moon called the Storm Moon groups with Spica.

• March 28 – The moon is near Saturn around midnight.
Mario Carr is director of public education for Hamilton Amateur Astronomers.  He can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca.

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