The highlight of March will be ‘not seeing’ something. The brightest star in Leo the lion, Regulus, will be briefly blotted out by faint asteroid Euigone(1) passing in front of it just after 2am EDT as seen from a narrow band passing over the New York City area. Seeing one of the brightest stars in the sky turn off for up to 14 seconds is a spooky event worth seeing. Timings from many locations of how long Regulus disappears can be used to map the shape of the asteroid. (See http://www.astronomy.com.cn/bbs/thread-223054-1-1.html scroll down for examples) For lots of details, including how to make scientifically useful observations, see http://occultations.org/Regulus2014/.
To see this event, in addition to setting an alarm clock at oh so dark in the morning, you’ll need to make sure you won’t go out at 2am just to find out you can’t see Regulus from where you planned to stand. (Seeing Regulus disappear behind a tree branch or a house definitely does not count!) So, go out some evening earlier that week and see if you can see the tip of the V in Hyades in Taurus around 8 to 8:30pm EDT. (That’s the V above Orion with reddish Aldebaran at the end of one of the arms of the V.) Regulus at 2am will be about a couple of fingerwidths below that spot in the sky, so if you can see that area below the V without obstructions, you should be able to see Regulus from the same spot around the time of the occultation.
Of course, there are many longer-lasting astronomical sights at more reasonable times in March.
The morning sky has a bright spray of planets, with Venus anchoring the scene low in the dawning sky. To its lower left early in the month is Mercury and well to its right is Saturn, and Mars further to the right, giving the early riser up to four planets for inspection.
Mars gets 25% larger this month and looks substantially brighter as we approach for our closest pass in many years in April. Mars rises by the end of evening twilight late in the month, making it more accessible to the prime time observer with a moderate or large telescope.
Saturn, a morning object, gets 5% larger in March, making a great sight even easier to see.
Venus gets smaller but thicker this month, more like a half-moon than a crescent when seen in a telescope during twilight. It’s standing out low in the southeastern dawn sky. Venus is joined by Mercury, which will be hard to spot lower to the left during the first two weeks of March. By the end of the month, Venus is , moving rapidly away from the Earth and gives up its title as the ‘closest planet to Earth’ to Mars.
Early morning astronomy gets a bit easier with the change to daylight time, with sunrise returning to after 7am, a time more typical to early January, but giving us more time for viewing Venus from east-facing train, bus and elevated subway stations on our way to work.
Jupiter is king of the nightime, passing high and bright overhead during prime time. It’s a great time to see the giant planet, with its ‘great red spot’ more prominent this year and four bright moons that occasionally leave their shadows lingering on the planet’s face.
A bit late for Olympic ice dancing, 4Vesta and 1Ceres appear to twizzle across the sky in Virgo, paired up from now through summer. In July they get within one degree of each other in the sky. Use your imagination to ‘see’ NASA’s Dawn spacecraft as its ion engine putters on its way between the two asteroids. You’ll need a good chart of their locations, but it’s great if you can track these two large rocks as they brighten enough to be see in binoculars as they move among the stars of Virgo from week to week.
The International Space Station joins the fun in the morning sky starting on the 11th through the end of the month.
This wouldn’t be an almanac column without noting the equinox occurs at 12:57pm EDT on March 20th. Enjoy!
(1) Erigone is from a Greek myth, so when spoken it’s divided up as e-RIG-on-e, not er-i-gone, even though since it’s making a star disappear, it might be more fun to use the “–gone” version.
The minor adjustments in the NWS thinking for Monday is the timing of snow, perhaps from Midnight through the midday on Monday, otherwise the options in the last post are still in play.
Go to your local forecast from the NWS to get their thoughts on when the snow might fall and when the most of the snow would be……http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?CityName=Ardsley&state=NY&site=OKX&lat=41.0146&lon=-73.8412#.UxD4B7Rm3IX
Click on your location on the map for the local details.
National Weather Service is noting the models are moving back to a multi-low pressure solution, as opposed to everything phasing together for one big storm. Our forecast depends on a large known uncertainty – what does the model do with a large upper air storm in the western US and when does it send its energy eastward?
Here’s what the NWS says in their NYC Forecast Discussion this morning……
AS A RESULT…THERE IS CURRENTLY NO REASON TO DEPART FROM PREVIOUS
FORECAST OF AT LEAST 8 INCHES OF SNOW ACROSS THE TRI-STATE FROM
SUNDAY NIGHT INTO MONDAY NIGHT. HOWEVER…IF THE TREND CONTINUES
TOWARDS A MORE SUPPRESSED TO THE [South] SOLUTION…THEN LOWER AMOUNTS ARE
POSSIBLE…IT IS STILL CONCEIVABLE THAT THE ENTIRE REGION COULD END
UP GETTING NO SNOW AT ALL – THOUGH HIGHLY UNLIKELY. ANOTHER
POSSIBILITY THAT WOULD LOWER SNOW AMOUNTS OVER SOUTHERN ZONES IS
THAT A WEAKER HIGH BUILDS TO THE N THAN CURRENTLY EXPECTED…THIS
WOULD ALLOW FOR A WINTRY MIX OVER SOUTHERN ZONES…REDUCING AMOUNTS
THERE. THIS ALSO APPEARS UNLIKELY AT THIS TIME. ANOTHER SOLUTION
STILL POSSIBLE IS THAT THERE IS MORE PHASING THAN CURRENTLY
FORECAST…THIS WOULD BRING THE LOWS…OR MORE LIKELY A SINGLE LOW
TRACKING CLOSER TO THE BENCH MARK…THIS WOULD INCREASE QPF AND
SNOWFALL…BUT COULD ALSO BRING THE LOW LEVEL WARM TONGUE OVER
SOUTHERN PORTIONS OF THE AREA…DEPENDING ON THE STRENGTH OF THE
HIGH. THIS IS A MORE REALISTIC POSSIBILITY.
Friday morning will be very cold, even for winter. This is one of the few times, despite the cold winter, when we could set records for low temperatures for Friday and Saturday. Some snow showers with little or no accumulation this weekend.
Scroll down for the story about snow for next week – after the National Weather Service write-up comparing temperatures for the next few days with historical daily temperature records (not all-time lows – we’re well above that).
HERE ARE THE RECORD LOW TEMPERATURES AND FORECASTED LOW TEMPERATURES
FOR FRIDAY…FEBRUARY 28 AND SATURDAY MARCH 1…AND THE RECORD LOW
MAXIMUM TEMPERATURES AND FORECASTED HIGH TEMPERATURES FOR FRIDAY
SITE……..RECORD/YEAR SET…FORECAST LOW
SITE……..RECORD LOW MAX/YEAR SET…FORECAST HIGH
SITE……..RECORD LOW/YEAR SET…FORECAST LOW
Glad you made it down here -
The NWS is telling us that the front coming through this weekend will lay out to our south. The lift of warm air over the front will overshadow us. Combine that with a an area of peak wind in the jet stream to our north will result in trapping a lot of air over us with nowhere to go but up.
That sets up for a storm to develop and pass off our coast.
If the front lays the trap further south, less snow. If the front lays the trap further north, more warm air will decrease snow amounts due to mixing with sleet and rain.
If the trap is sprung, then eight inches or more of snow will happen over the NYC and surrounding area. Less far inland and most near the coast. The snow would start Sunday night and end Monday night.
Stay tuned for updates over the weekend.
The NWS is noting that the very unstable atmosphere with a small but strong upper air wave will give periods of impressive snowfall during Wednesday morning, but is predicting accumulations of 1 to 2 inches total in the locally heavy showers, with most areas getting 1/2 inch total.
Saturday has a cold front bringing the more arctic air into our area with a few snow showers, which might be impressive but not amount to much.
The problem with this front is if it doesn’t go far enough south, when waves of low pressure come along the front, it may drop snow on us if we stay on the north (colder) side of the front for the first half of next week.
After a line of rain – with thunderstorms – lingers over the east coast on Friday, we go for a while without major storms, but a polar low will drive cold air into the midwest and northeast starting by the middle of next week, with the coldest air arriving by the beginning of March.
Look below at the computer forecast map for the northern hemisphere at one kilometer above the surface for Saturday evening MARCH 1st (00Z March 2 on the map); the blue area is the coldest temperatures – look at the area of blue extending from the USA on the lower right back across the North Pole to Siberia.
The solid lines show the wind flow.
God has been busy putting little coats of snow to refresh the white coating on the ground.
Tuesday has another storm sweeping through the northeast.
Wednesday brings some light rain and an all rain event all day is forecast for Friday as the temperatures get warmer this week. But repeated cold fronts bring the chill back for the beginning of next week.
The aviation forecast summary is a quick primer on the agenda for this mini-snowfall of 2 to 5 inches, less where rain mixes in…..
HIGH CONFIDENCE PCPN STARTS BETWEEN 09-12Z [4am - 7am] IN THE MORNING AS ALL
SNOW. GENERALLY EXPECTING RAIN TO MIX IN AROUND 15-17Z [10am - 12noon] ALONG THE
COAST…AND BCMG ALL RAIN IN THE AFTN FOR A PERIOD BEFORE THE PCPN
ENDS. LESSER CONFIDENCE OF INLAND SITES SEEING RAIN MIX IN AND
COULD SEE AN ALL SNOW EVENT. PCPN ENDS AROUND 21Z [4pm] IN THE AFTN.
At the NYC National Weather Service site at http://www.erh.noaa.gov/okx/ (or your local NWS office)…….
Click on Storm Total Forecast for the map of predicted snowfall amounts. (Also see links to forecast maps for surrounding areas.)
Click on Forecast Discussion for the NWS’ take on where most of the snow may fall.
Click on your location and check the hourly forecast to see the forecast of when the snow will fall.
Monday evening map for the NYC office’s forecast snowfall amounts for its area…..