The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 1, 2011

March a good time to spot planets


The sun's apparent size also varies due to the variation in the Earth's distance from the sun but no one notices because understandably, no one carefully inspects the sun. Never look directly at the sun with your eyes or with any optical instrument!

The March equinox, the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere,

happens March 20 at 6:21 p.m. CDT. At the equinox the sun rises due east and sets due west. As a result the day and night length are nearly equal. Equal night is the meaning of equinox.

The last half of March is a good time to view zodiacal light. Zodiacal light is sunlight reflected from dust particles that accumulate in the orbital plane of the planets. To see this glow in the sky you first need to find a dark location. Watch the western point on the horizon starting at about half an hour after sunset. With luck you will see a glowing triangle of light with its base on the horizon. The darker your location the more likely you are to

see zodiacal light.

Send comments and questions to Steve Kipp, at


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