Charlotte Astronomy and sky-watcher highlights for the week ahead.

Thank you to NASA ambassador Tony Rice for providing the weekly Astronomical highlights for Charlotte.

You can connect with Tony right here


  • Throughout the month, Venus, Mars, and Uranus are visible in the west. Jupiter is located in the southwest around midnight.
  • Mercury is in the southeast very low at dawn visible in the morning twilight, and
  • Saturn is in the south reaching its highest point in the sky as dawn breaks.
  • Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) has dimmed but is still visible in small telescopes and decent binoculars.
  • for the next week or two, the zodiacal light (aka false dawn) may be visible on the eastern horizon before sunrise from dark locations (and occasionally false dusk after sunset in the west). This is sunlight reflecting off dust in the inner solar system. This is easier to see from lower latitudes than higher ones.
  • There is a total solar eclipse coming up on March 20th but it wil be visible from extreme northern Danish and Norwegian islands, not anywhere North America.
  • Mar 19 Mercury is 5 degrees south of the Moon at 5:00
  • Mar 19 the Moon is at perigee, subtending 33′ 25″ from a distance of 357,584 kilometers (222,192 miles), at 20:00
  • Mar 20 a total solar eclipse, visible from the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, has first contact at 7:41 UTC and last contact at 11:50 UTC
  • Mar 22 Venus is 3 degrees north of the Moon at 20:00
  • Mar 25 The Moon is 0.9 degree north of the first-magnitude star Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri), with an occultation visible from Alaska, northwestern Canada, northern Greenland, far northeastern China, northeastern Scandinavia, Russia, and Kazakhstan, at 7:00
  • Fri Mar 20 05:36:10: new moon
  • Fri Mar 20 18:45:07: vernal equinox

Planet visibility

body (phase)risetransit (alt)setconstellation
Mercury (82%)06:55:4312:18:43 (38°)17:42:34Aquarius
Venus (82%)08:53:1415:34:58 (61°)22:15:21Pisces
Moon (18%)04:43:3710:00:46 (34°)15:22:32Capricornus
Mars08:29:4214:56:27 (57°)21:23:51Pisces
Saturn01:07:1006:01:20 (31°)10:55:31Scorpius
Jupiter15:44:3322:53:51 (67°)05:58:55Cancer

Sample rise/set times for 03/16/15

Satellite passes

International Space Station (ISS)

  • below trees pass begins Mon 2015-03-16 05:10:37 from the NE (52°) reaches 83°, lasts 1 minute
  • poor pass begins Tue 2015-03-17 05:52:05 from the NNW (343°) reaches 25°, lasts 3 minutes
  • poor pass begins Wed 2015-03-25 06:46:27 from the NW (326°) reaches 26°, lasts 6 minutes
  • good pass begins Fri 2015-03-27 06:35:35 from the NW (315°) reaches 49°, lasts 6 minutes
  • poor pass begins Sat 2015-03-28 05:42:39 from the NNW (328°) reaches 29°, lasts 5 minutes
  • outstanding pass begins Sun 2015-03-29 06:24:45 from the WNW (303°) reaches 71°, lasts 6 minutes

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

no visible HST passes predicted during this period

See Heavens Above for the latest pass predictions. Satellite pass gradings are based on altitude reached and duration of pass. Higher altitude passes are closers to the observer and generally brighter as a result. Satellites other than ISS are much more difficult to spot.

Moon Phases

Fri 2015-03-20 05:36:10new
Fri 2015-03-27 03:42:35first quarter
Sat 2015-04-04 08:05:33full
Sat 2015-04-11 23:44:26last quarter



DateRiseSolar noon (alt)Setsunlight
Mon 2015-03-1607:3313:31 (47.96°)19:3011 hrs 57 min
Tue 2015-03-1707:3113:31 (48.36°)19:3111 hrs 59 min
Wed 2015-03-1807:3013:31 (48.75°)19:3212 hrs 2 min
Thu 2015-03-1907:2813:30 (49.15°)19:3312 hrs 5 min
Fri 2015-03-2007:2613:30 (49.54°)19:3412 hrs 8 min
Sat 2015-03-2107:2513:30 (49.94°)19:3512 hrs 10 min
Sun 2015-03-2207:2313:29 (50.33°)19:3612 hrs 13 min
Mon 2015-03-2307:2113:29 (50.73°)19:3712 hrs 16 min
Tue 2015-03-2407:2013:29 (51.12°)19:3912 hrs 18 min
Wed 2015-03-2507:1813:29 (51.51°)19:4012 hrs 21 min
  • gained 0:24:10 (hh:mm:ss) of daylight over this period
  • daylight (HH:MM): 12:08
  • mean: sunrise 07:26 sunset 19:35
  • max: sun angle 51.51°


Mon 2015-03-1606:0021:01
Tue 2015-03-1705:5821:02
Wed 2015-03-1805:5721:03
Thu 2015-03-1905:5521:04
Fri 2015-03-2005:5321:06
Sat 2015-03-2105:5121:07
Sun 2015-03-2205:5021:08
Mon 2015-03-2305:4821:09
Tue 2015-03-2405:4621:10
Wed 2015-03-2505:4421:12

Astronomical Seasons

  • vernal equinox: Fri 2015-03-20 18:45
  • summer solstice: Sun 2015-06-21 12:38

Meteor Showers

Meteor Showers Underway this period

nameratingstartpeakendzhr*speed (mi/s)qualitymoon at peakparent body
Gamma NormidsminorFeb 25Sat Mar 14Mar 22656bright↑ Sun 3:36 AM 03/15/15
28% full
↓Sun 2:17 PM
VirginidsminorMar 22Fri Apr 17Apr 26520↑ Sat 6:35 AM 04/18/15
0% full
↓Sat 7:56 PM

Next Major Meteor Showers

nameratingstartpeakendzhr*speed (mi/s)qualitymoon at peakparent body
PerseidsmajorJul 17Wed Aug 12Aug 2410059bright↑ Thu 5:37 AM 08/13/15
0% full
↓Thu 7:24 PM
GeminidsmajorDec 07Sun Dec 13Dec 1712035medium↑ Mon 9:39 AM 12/14/15
7% full
↓Sun 7:29 PM
C/1964 N1 (Ikeya)

see: International Meteor Organization calendar for details. ZHR is a rough prediction and represents optimal viewing conditions (clear dark sky, radiant directly overhead). Green rows are the best viewing

Aerospace Calendar


  • Sat 2015-03-21 16:04: A Falcon 9 will launch TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSat from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, pad SLC-40, the launch window closes 60 minutes later at 17:04.
  • Wed 2015-03-25 14:36: A Delta 4 will launch GPS 2F-9 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, pad SLC-37B, the launch window closes 18 minutes later at 14:54.
  • Wed 2015-03-25 21:00: A H-2A will launch IGS Optical 5 from Tanegashima Space Center, Japan, the launch window closes 120 minutes later at 23:00.


  • Mar 16 Launch of Gemini 8, with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott, who performed the first orbital rendezvous and docking. A stuck thruster then ended the mission prematurely; only superb piloting by Armstrong saved the mission from disaster. 49 years ago
  • Mar 16 Launch of USSR satellite Cosmos 1, aka Sputnik 11, an ionosphere probe. 53 years ago
  • Mar 17 Launch of the twin GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites (also known informally as “Tom” and “Jerry”)), on a mission to make detailed observations of the Earth’s magnetic field. The tactic of tracking two spacecraft so closely that gravity field data can be derived accurately worked well for GRACE, so much so that the same tactic was employed by the GRAIL satellites of the Moon. 13 years ago
  • Mar 18 Asteroid 2004 FH, discovered by the LINEAR Asteroid Survey team only three days ago, made the closet asteroid approach to Earth ever recorded on this date at 5:08 EST (only 26,500 miles from Earth, ~11% of the Earth-Moon distance!). Objects this size (~30 m) approach the Earth about every 24 months, on average. 11 years ago
  • Mar 18 Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made the first “walk” in Space. 50 years ago
  • Mar 19 Orville Wright opened the Wright Flight School in Montgomery, Alabama, on land that would one day become Maxwell AFB. 5 years ago
  • Mar 21 Giovanni Cassini discovered Saturn’s moons Tethys and Dione 331 years ago
  • Mar 23 Launch of Gemini 3, the first space mission with two astronauts aboard. 50 years ago
  • Mar 23 Rocket scientist Wernher von Braun born 3 years ago
  • Mar 23 Russian Space Station Mir was successfully de-orbited into the South Pacific after 15 years of service. 14 years ago
  • Mar 24 Famed author Jules Verne died. His ‘science fiction’ stories would inspire a generation of engineers and explorers. 10 years ago
  • Mar 25 Christiaan Huygens discovered Saturn’s moon Titan 360 years ago
  • Mar 25 Launch of Explorer 10, a mission that successfully monitored the solar wind and its interaction with the Earth’s magnetic field. 54 years ago
  • Mar 25 Launch of the IMAGE spacecraft, on a mission to study solar wind, magnetosphere, and aurora interactions. 15 years ago

Covers Mon 2015-03-16 01:00 through Thu 2015-03-26 01:00 . Calculations are for Charlotte, NC (40.3690,-80.6330) at an elevation of 215 m and are expressed in local (US/Eastern) time and a 24 hour clock.