Spring Break Astronomy: Celebrate the Dance of the Planets in Oregon This Month
(Portland, Oregon) - OMSI planetarium manager Jim Todd is urging Oregonians to look to the sky – if possible – for some interesting sights around the state, just as OMSI gets ready to host a pair of star viewing parties (above: Portland skies early in March as the moon and one of the planets danced around each other).
There's been an intriguing cosmic dance between Venus and Jupiter all month, and March 15 will see the peak of the pairing as the two line up for a planetary conjunction where they will also be seen for an especially long time as they wander the sky throughout the evening.
It's being called the best conjunction for years to come. The two will shine brightly over the western horizon for about four hours after the sun goes down.
“Venus and Jupiter continue to highlight the evening sky, visible through the twilight in the western sky all month long,” Todd said. “Jupiter appears higher in the sky as the month begins, but Venus moves in closer until reaching an amazing conjunction with Jupiter mid-month, followed by a lovely trio as the waxing crescent moon passes near the planets on the evenings of March 24, 25 and 26.”
Two Star Parties will be held on March 17, presented by OMSI, Rose City Astronomers and Vancouver Sidewalk Astronomers as they celebrate the spring equinox and the beginning of spring. They are both free – one happens at Rooster Rock State Park in the Gorge and the other at L.L. "Stub" Stewart State Park in the Oregon coast range, just off Highway 26. They're open to beginners and experts, allowing people a chance to view the stars and these other heavenly bodies through telescopes.
Above: star scene above Cannon Beach, on the Oregon coast.
Viewing highlights includes the spectacular pairing of planets Venus and Jupiter in the west along with the emerging Mars and Saturn from the east. As the sky darkens, you'll be able to view deep sky objects including the Orion Nebula, Beehive star cluster and more.
OMSI suggests to doublecheck the OMSI Star Parties Hotline on that day if weather has caused the events to be canceled. - at 503 797-4610. The event starts at sunset and is free with $5 parking per vehicle. Warm clothing and a flashlight with red light are recommended. Personal telescopes and binoculars are welcome.
To reach Rooster Rock State Park, take I-84 east of the Sandy River at exit 25. The park is located 22 miles east of Portland.
To reach L.L. "Stub" Stewart State Park, take US-26 west of Portland and turn right on OR-47. The park is located 23 miles west of Portland.
Jupiter streaking across Portland skies this past summer