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Worm Moon Equilux

Hello once again fellow astrophiles! Well, here we are, almost a quarter of the way through the year. Can you believe it? Time is flying so fast anymore that it’s gone superchronic. 

I guess the biggest astrological event this March is the vernal (spring) equinox.  I must confess that it’s not really my thing, as I prefer winter over spring. But I know it’s something that many people really look forward to. 

Map created using Stellarium Web

The vernal equinox occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator (which is an imaginary line in the sky hovering above the Earth’s equator) from south to north. This year that happens in the Lewisburg area on March 20 at 11:33 am. While it is commonly thought that the length of night and day are exactly equal on the equinox, this is not entirely true for a couple of reasons. One reason is that day begins when the leading edge of the sun first pops up over the horizon – just that first little pinpoint of light. And day ends when the sun’s trailing edge finally drops below the horizon. This effect adds two or three minutes of excess daytime over nighttime. If day began and ended when the centerline of the sun crossed the horizon, day and night would be equal in this respect.

This year that happens in the Lewisburg area on March 20 at 11:33 am.

While day and night may not be equal on the equinox, every place on Earth does have a day on which night and day are approximately equal. This date is known as the equilux, and it depends on your latitude. For our area it occurs on March 17 this year. The equilux always comes a few days before the spring equinox and a few days after the fall equinox.

This month’s full Moon is known as the Worm Moon. It’s called that because the Moon gets so close to the Earth that it literally pulls the earthworms out of the ground! Ok, I admit it, that’s a lie. It was really named the Worm Moon by Native American tribes because March is the time of year when earthworms first began to emerge from the newly thawed ground. Look for it on the night of March 17-18. 

There will be a wonderful conjunction of planets to close out the month, but you’ll have to get up bright and early to see it. Mars, Saturn, and Venus will all cluster together in the predawn sky during late March and early April. It’s a pretty special event to be able to look up and see three planets in the same place, and in this case they’ll be so close together that you may even be able to view them all at the same time with your telescope or binoculars, depending on what type you have. To see this beautiful sight, look to the southeastern horizon just before sunrise. The planets will be pretty low in the sky, so I’d recommend being very tall to get a good view. Either that or you can find a spot with a clear view of the horizon.

his month’s full Moon is known as the Worm Moon. It’s called that because the Moon gets so close to the Earth that it literally pulls the earthworms out of the ground!

If you’re crazy enough to get up early several days in a row, you can watch the action unfold as Saturn approaches closer and closer to Mars until they are only half a degree apart (about the width of the full Moon) on April 4. I’ve included a map showing the southeastern sky as it will look at 6:00 am on March 31 (my birthday!). The red line marks the plane of the ecliptic, which is the path the sun traces in the skies of Earth when viewed against the backdrop of stars. It also marks the approximate path the planets trace as they orbit the sun, which is why all the planets are close to this line on the map.

Well folks, that about wraps it up for this month. Until next time, remember – always keep an Eye on the Sky!

– Barry Pyne, HashtagWV #140. March 2022. Contact the author at offthebeatenpathman@gmail.com

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