SKY REPORTER: Cosmic Events main content.

SKY REPORTER: Cosmic Events

by Steve Beyer on


A major impact on public awareness of science in general and especially astronomy will arrive with the new Cosmos series. Among other cosmic events, there is one that will be seen by far fewer folks, nevertheless far more than ever had such a view. If you're willing to be up around two a.m. and keep your eye on the bright star Regulus in Leo it will disappear for a few seconds—hidden by the distant bulk of an asteroid! For a fleeting period of up to 14 seconds the “shadow” footprint of a large asteroid will pass over New York City during the early morning of March 20th. This event, known as a stellar occultation, is the result of a very brief line-up of asteroid Erigone precisely between Regulus and locales ranging from the city northwest along a path into Canada.

COSMOS: A Space-Time Odyssey
COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey

I’ve never been as excited about a new TV series as I am about the much anticipated 13 part “COSMOS: A Space-Time Odyssey,” hosted and edited by Hayden Planetarium director, Neil deGrasse Tyson. The series begins Sunday March 9th at 9 pm on no less than 10 FOX networks. The great enthusiasm, dedication of resources, and level of presentation responsible for this production stem from deep longings virtually everyone has to know more about our place in the Universe.

Shortly after two a.m. on the morning of March 19-20th, asteroid Erigone (ur-RIG- ah-nee), a 45 mile body, 110 million miles from Earth, will very briefly block light from the first-magnitude star Regulus, brightest star in the constellation Leo. The asteroid’s shadow will then rapidly pass over parts of New York City and northeast New Jersey, then move northwest through upstate New York and into Canada. This will only be the second time a first magnitude star has been predicted to be hidden from view by an asteroid and the first such event for North America. If skies are clear that early morning, millions will have an opportunity to see this remarkable event albeit one expected to have a maximum duration of just 14 seconds. Just as the shadow of your hand can provide an outline of your fingers, carefully timed observations made at the margins of Erigone’s quickly passing shadow can provide an accurate profile of this asteroid. You can find more information about this event at the International Occultation Timing Association.

Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 am Sunday March 9th.
Spring begins in the northern hemisphere March 20th at 12:57 pm. EDT. At that time the Sun is directly above a point on the equator in Colombia at longitude 72 degrees, 40 minutes west.


The Moon

Lunar Phases, March 2014
New Moon March 1
First Quarter March 8
Full Moon March 16
Last Quarter March 24
New Moon March 30






Mercury is in the pre-dawn sky during March. On the mornings of the 28th and 29th a narrow crescent moon is in the direction of this closest planet to the Sun. Venus is also in the early morning sky and near the waning crescent moon on the 26th and 27th of March. Mars is increasingly bright in Virgo, rising during the middle of evening. The waning gibbous moon may be seen near Mars on the nights of the 18th and 19th. Jupiter still dominates high in the south during March evenings. The waxing gibbous moon passes near Jupiter the nights of the 9th and 10th. The nights of the 20st and 21nd the moon is toward the direction of Saturn.

Planets for March 15th
Mercury Rises 6:07 a.m. Aquarius
Venus Rises 4:56 a.m. Capricorn
Mars Rises 9:26 p.m. Virgo
Jupiter Sets 3:41 a.m. Gemini
Saturn Rises 11:45 p.m. Libra
Uranus Rises 7:50 a.m. Pisces
Neptune Sets 6:47 p.m. Aquarius