The night skies of this month would display some peculiar planets dazzling dramatically in south-eastern sky during early morning hours just before daybreak. The elusive planet Mercury cannot be perceived easily, because it would be drifting through constellations Capricornus (sea goat), Aquarius (water bearer) and Pisces (fishes) during the day.
The Great Square of Pegasus (winged horse) would be hovering impressively above Pisces. Arcane constellation Andromeda would be extending exquisitely eastwards from Pegasus. Constellation Perseus (legendary hero) could be cherished cutely adjacent to constellation Andromeda. Its arcane star Algol has been one mystically multiple-star system with three confirmed and two suspected stellar components with each star whirling around the other. This enigmatic eclipsing binary star would be simply ninety-three light-years away.
Its nomenclature has been derived from an Arabic word meaning the demon’s head or literally the ghoul. It would wax and wane in luminosity with clockwork regularity, completing one cycle in roughly two days and twenty hours.
Planet Venus Coruscating planet Venus could be viewed in south-eastern sky before day-begin. It would be gliding gracefully from northern region of constellation Capricornus to western section of the comely constellation Aquarius. Similarly, the ruddy planet Mars could be marveled tersely in south-eastern sky before sunup.
It would be mingling merrily with the stars relaxing in northern side of teapot-resembling constellation Sagittarius (archer) and marching towards Capricornus. The mammoth gas planet Jupiter would be out of sight this month as it would be high up in the sky during daytime on the eastern edge of constellation Aquarius. Ringed planet Saturn could be relished above south-eastern horizon before sunrise from mid-month. It would be shimmering strangely with stars staying in northern sector of constellation Capricornus.
The far-flung greenish planet Uranus could be ascertained in the western sky after sunset, as greenish point of light in barren-esque terrain unfurling uncannily below the compact constellation Aries (ram). Charming constellation Cetus (sea monster) would be sprawling superbly below Uranus. Magnificently mesmerizing variable star Mira could be manifested in Cetus. It would be sheer three hundred light-years away.
Baffling barred spiral Squid galaxy (Messier 77) could beguile sky-gazers from afar. Its estimated span from us would be whooping fourty-seven million light-years. Super-massive black hole has been allegedly lurking languidly in this galaxy. They generally grow at the center of galaxies, as in our own Milky Way home-galaxy.
French astronomer Pierre Mechain had identified it in 1780 in Cetus. Black holes have been extraordinarily dense objects possessing gravitational pulls so powerful that even light cannot escape from them. The distant bluish planet Neptune cannot be evinced due to its proximity to the Sun. It would be lost in solar glare. It would be frolicking freely with stars dwelling distinctly in north-eastern flank of constellation Aquarius.
The venerated Maha Shivaratri would be observed respectfully on 01 March. The mysterious new moon would befall on 02 March, while the fulgent full moon could mystify moon-enthusiasts on 18 March. This full moon’s popular moniker has been full worm moon that would allude to actual circumstances that during this time of the year, the ground would slowly soften and the earthworms would reappear.
Colorful Holi festival would be cheerfully celebrated on this very day. The full moon would be fairly 380 thousand kilometers from earth. It would be cavorting in constellation Virgo (maiden). The amazing imaginary Spring Triangle asterism could be sketched by linking the sparkling stars Arcturus (Swati), Spica (Chitra) and Regulus (Magha) that would be nesting in constellations Bootes (herdsman), Virgo and Leo (lion). They would be at vertices of the celestial triangle and be merely 37, 250 and 79 light-years away respectively.
March Equinox The March equinox would occur on 20 March 2022. The Sun would shine directly on the equator and there would be ostensibly equal amounts of day and night in duration measuring basically twelve hours throughout the world. It would herald the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and mark the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Sun would be residing in constellation Pisces (fishes) during equinox this year. The word equinox has been derived from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox (night). Equinoxes would transpire because the axis of the earth’s spin has been tilted at an angle of sparsely 23.5 degrees to the plane of its rotation around the Sun. The direction of earth’s twirl-axis would remain fixed in space as it would circle around the Sun, while the earth’s line of sight to the Sun would slide smoothly through twelve so-called zodiac constellations.
The earth’s North Pole would be inclined utmost towards the Sun in around 21 June and would be leaning away maximal from it in about 21 December. At these intermediate spots between the solstices, which would feature the longest day and the shortest night and vice-versa, the Sun would stand over the earth’s equator on around 21 March and 23 September.
In March, the Sun would be travelling northwards across the equator and in September it would be trudging towards south. These phenomena would trigger tangibly the prevalence of the earth’s seasons. Earth would be revolving around the Sun once in every 365.242 days and the cycle of solstices and equinoxes and consequently earth’s climate pattern would be recurring annually. Furthermore, the earth would rotate like gyroscope, causing the location of the equinoxes creep cautiously across the sky (known as the precession of equinox). In simple terms, the zodiac has been defined as belt-mimicking area of the sky that would stretch approximately eight degrees north or south of the ecliptic, which would indicate the apparent path of Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year along with that of the moon and the planets.
Finding facts and explanations for unlocking the secrets of the eerie enigmas and confounding conundrums surrounding our Sun by delving deep into and scrutinizing them meticulously would be indispensably important and vitally beneficial for our existence and survival on our planet. NASA has selected two scientific missions, the Multi-slit Solar Explorer (MUSE) and HelioSwarm for improving the understanding of the dynamics of Sun, Sun-Earth connection, and the constantly changing space-environment.
These programs would provide intricate insights into our universe and offer critical clues for protecting astronauts, satellites and communications signals as GPS. MUSE would help experts fathom the forces driving the heating of Sun’s corona and their eruptions, which are deemed the foundation of space weather. It would glean data related to the physics of solar atmosphere by utilizing sophisticatedly innovated instrument dubbed multi-slit spectrometer for monitoring Sun’s extreme ultraviolet radiation and capturing the immaculate images of the solar transition tracts and the corona.
MUSE would fill crucial gaps in knowledge pertaining to the Sun-Earth issues. It would gather more information of space weather and complement the research-results of other expeditions. The primary goal of the MUSE would be to investigate the genesis of coronal heating and instability, as flares and coronal mass ejections and decipher the plasma properties. MUSE would obtain best-resolution pictures of the solar blaze ribbons on active realms of Sun. This project’s budget would be circa 192 million USD.
HelioSwarm Mission The HelioSwarm mission would be composed of nine spacecrafts that would accumulate the first multi-scale in-space measurements of fluctuations in the magnetic field and motions of the solar wind designated as solar wind-turbulence. The Sun’s atmospheric layer, the heliosphere, has been encompassing enormous expanse of the Solar System. Solar winds would be spreading through the heliosphere, interacting with planetary magnetospheres and disrupting coronal mass ejections.
Studying solar wind turbulence would require plasma measurements taken simultaneously from different positions in space. HelioSwarm would consist of one hub spacecraft and eight co-orbiting small satellites.
The main spacecraft would maintain radio contact with each satellite. The conversation between the swarm and earth would be conducted through the primary spacecraft and the NASA’s Deep Space Network. HelioSwarm’s satellites operating together in close constellation would analyze turbulence and its evolution in the solar wind. The outlay of assignment would be solely 250 million USD.
(Dr Shah is an academician at NAST and patron of Nepal Astronomical Society)