The good news about the James Webb Space Telescope continues because they have obtained satisfactory images of an object from all eighteen segments of the mirror and are now in the process of synchronising them to produce a single composite image. Roll on summertime when they start receiving data.
The following chart represents the night sky at 10.00pm GMT on the 8th of March and at 9.00pm GMT on the 23rd March. To use the chart, face south at the appropriate time with the bottom of the chart towards the southern horizon and you will see the stars in the chart. If you are observing a little earlier in the evening then the view is shifted 15 degrees eastwards for every hour before the specified time.
I promised you an old favourite last month and nobody can be disappointed with the constellation Leo- The Lion. It is well known because it is a large zodiacal constellation and its outline stars do resemble a crouching lion making it readily recognisable. However, if you are not sure, follow a line from Dubhe through Merak, the two pointer stars in The Plough, down towards your southern horizon and you will find Leo. Earlier in the evening it will be towards the East. This constellation contains an asterism known as The Sickle because of its hook shape and outlined in red on the chart. It also looks like a backwards question mark. The brightest star in Leo is Regulus located at the bottom of the Sickle or the dot at the bottom of the question mark. It is a large blue-white star at a distance of eighty light years from Earth and with a magnitude of 1.4 it is the 15th brightest star in the northern hemisphere. The two other named stars, Algieba and Denebola, are not so well known but with magnitudes of 2.1 and 2.2 they help to make Leo stand out in the night sky. Algieba is a double star, consisting of two yellow giants, easily resolved into its components if you have a small telescope.
Don’t forget to enjoy Orion as it continues westwards in the evening sky to the right of Leo.
Just above Leo lies the small and insignificant constellation Leo Minor- The Little Lion. Its brightest star is around magnitude 4 and even if you could see it there is no resemblance to a lion.
The next constellation this month is Ursa Major- The Great Bear but better known for its asterism- The Plough, outlined in red. Ursa Major is a circumpolar constellation visible all year round as it rotates about the celestial north pole. The chart is a bit misleading because your zenith (the point directly above you) lies near the front feet of Ursa Major so you need to turn and face towards the north and you will see the plough standing on its handle at this time of year. The pointer stars have already been mentioned in locating Leo but if you go in the opposite direction you find Polaris – The Pole Star. (There will be more about that next month.) The second star along the handle of The Plough, Mizar, is a well known optical double and has been used as a test for how good your eyesight is. However, even a small telescope will reveal that Mizar is part of a true binary system in its own right.
Something to look out for
As mentioned last month the planets are not in favourable positions at present unless you are an early bird and want to view them before dawn.
Remember it is the spring equinox on Sunday 20th March and the following Sunday the clocks move forward one hour as we start British Summer Time (BST).