Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Signs of Spring in the Night Sky!
A Crescent Moon Smile
A crescent Moon sets near a mountain in early March. Despite the clouds, the darker part of the moon can be seen to be illuminated by reflected Earthshine.NASA/Bill Dunford
Once spring is under way, nature lovers can find it hard to keep up with the rapid day-to-day changes. Much less well-known is that the sky starts this process first.
The Sun Shifts Location
Gazing upward, we can actually feel as well as see the current rapid alterations. For, this is the time of year when the Sun most visibly shifts its location. Try it yourself.
- The next clear day at noon, notice the height of the Sun.
- Well, exactly one week later at that same noon hour (or 1 PM if you do this after the March 10 clock change), the Sun will hover five of its own diameters higher up!
A huge, noticeable difference.
The Sun’s Strength Intensifies
This matters because sunlight’s strength directly depends on its height in the sky. You can duplicate this effect with a flashlight in a dark room.
- Shine the beam flat onto a wall and notice its brightness.
- Then angle the flashlight sideways so that the beam spreads out and illuminates a larger wall section, and you’ll see that its brightness has diminished.
The Sun does the same thing. Every week we now get palpably intensified sunbeams on our skin.
By the time we reach the equinox on March 20, the Sun will be high and strong enough to create a burn. And just a couple of weeks later in April, the Sun’s strength matches its August intensity.
Other parts of the sky are changing too.
Crescent Moon: A Smile for Spring
Check out the crescent Moon after sunset on March 8 or 9. See anything different? Well, especially from southern states, the February and March waxing crescent moons are oriented like smiles.
For comparison, look at the evening crescent Moon this summer or autumn and it will be oriented on its side like an archer’s bow.
So, the singular appearance of the Moon joins the super fast ascension of the Sun as surefire celestial harbingers that light up our skies during this approach to the start of spring.
About This Blog
Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s hub for everything stargazing and astronomy. Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, he covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob, the world’s mostly widely read astronomer, also has a new weekly podcast, Astounding Universe!